A Rogue Librarian's Reading List

{May 18, 2011}   The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

Plot: Bruno’s father is a very important man in the army. One day, he is promoted and transfered to the countryside. Bruno is devasted that they must leave Berlin, their beautiful home and all his friends. At first Bruno hates their new home. But then he meets Shmuel, a boy who lives on the other side of the fence and like everyone on the other side wears stirped pajamas all day. The two boys become fast friends.

This is a beautiful and tragic fable. The prose is sparse but effective. And it is both fascinating and horrifying looking at the attrocities at Auschiwtz through the eyes of an innocent child. For we, of course, understand what is happening in a way that Bruno does not. The blurb on the back claims that this is not a book for 9 year olds but I don’t see why not. I think it is a novel that can reach readers of all ages. It is both a well executed story and a good starting point for discussions of war, attrocities and responsibility.

But though this is a wonderful book,  I must say one thing: This is a book written in English about people speaking German. It is easy to suspend your disbelief and pretend that they are speaking German. However, Boyne uses two puns throughout the novel, two words that Bruno always mispronounces and misunderstand: The Fury and Out-With. I understand the Boyne is trying to make a point by doing this but not only do I find it extremely heavy handed but these puns only work if Bruno were speaking English. It’s a little enough thing but it bugged me. (I note that these puns were left out of the movie.)

Here is the trailer for the movie:

Challenges: Into the Old World Challenge (26), YA Historical Challenge (5)


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