A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that even though the main character in this book is 9 years old, this book is a better fit for kids in late middle school and up. The book focuses on complex emotional issues of evil and the Holocaust, and raises questions about the nature of man. It could spark a great moral discussion. But kids will probably be very moved if not quite upset by some of the events in the book. Its theme is complex and powerful, and it will provoke emotions and questions that will need discussion and explanation. We recommend that you talk with your kids after they've read the book, or even read the book together.
What's the story?
When Bruno is forced to move away from his enormous Berlin home with his family, his life changes forever. Besides moving into a smaller house with no "nooks and crannies" to explore, besides having no one to play with except for his older sister (also known as the "Hopeless Case"), he's surrounded by soldiers that are constantly in and out of his father's downstairs office as well as other grown-ups who always seem angry or unhappy. Bruno misses his friends, his grandparents, and the city itself. And he doesn't understand what's going on around him. He hates everything about "Out-With" and is very lonely until he meets the boy on the other side of the fence.
Is it any good?
This powerful book about the Holocaust stands out in part because of the unusual perspective. It's told through the eyes of the 9-year-old son of the commandant at Auschwitz, a boy who has no clue as to what is going on around him. This perspective allows readers to feel a strong sense of foreboding, long before they know the extent of the terror surrounding Bruno's world. Readers will be struck by the contrast between Bruno's normalcy and naivety, and the extreme horrors of the time.
Readers will quickly relate to Bruno, who is uprooted from his home and moved somewhere "nasty and cold" where he has no friends; he is lonely, his sister bugs him, and adults treat him as if he's not there. He wants to study art and read fantasy books rather than history and geography. He wants to get outside and explore. At one point Bruno even covets the life of the boy on the other side of the fence because at least he has other boys with whom he can play.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about World War II and the Holocaust. How is reading a story different than reading about facts in a history book? Which do you find more moving? Which are you more likely to remember?
How would the story be different if it were told from another point of view?
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