The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Common Sense Media says

Intense, powerful Holocaust book offers unique perspective.

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Educational value

This can help kids connect with the historical events of the Holocaust in a more realistic way. Could also lead to some great discussions about evil and the nature of man. 

Positive messages

Clearly, there is evil presented. But readers will be touched by the power of friendship and compassion.

Positive role models

Readers will quickly relate to Bruno, who is uprooted from his home and moved somewhere "nasty and cold." His 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.

Violence

Implied violence though none graphically shown. But the book is set in a death camp so emotional violence is a real factor to consider when your kids read the book. The ending involves very upsetting death.

Sex
Not applicable
Language
Not applicable
Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

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.

Parents say

Kids say

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?

QUALITY
 

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.

Families can talk 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?

Book details

Author:John Boyne
Genre:Historical Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:David Fickling Books
Publication date:September 12, 2006
Number of pages:215
Publisher's recommended age(s):12

This review of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

Find out more

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

Great handpicked alternatives

For kids who love friendship and emotional stories

External sites

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 14 years old Written bynerdgirl96 January 16, 2011
AGE
11
QUALITY
 

wonderful; a unique perpective

Somehow, events are all the more tragic when narrated by those who do not understand. It's a very good tale of friendship. It ends sadly, and I feel the ending sort of communicates that everyone is harmed by hate and violence. Of all the Holocaust novel I've read (and believe me, that's a lot) I think this is the only one I've read from this perspective-that is, from the point of view of a Nazi's son. The book shouldn't be used as an introduction to the Holocaust- you have to know, or it won't make any sense. You should also know that Out-With=Auschwitz (is that obvious?).
What other families should know
Educational value
Educator Written byCocorobashow October 6, 2012
AGE
18
QUALITY
 

No Redeeming Social Value

It is impossible to believe that the Bruno, a nine year old, living in Berlin, had never heard of a Jew. He obviously had been educated in the best schools, where eugenics had been taught for years. Who did he think was walking around in his city with yellow Star of David patches on their clothes? He never noticed boarded up shops? He talks to Shmuel for months and can't see that the child is starving. He brings food from his house and eats most of it himself before he gets to Shmuel. For whom was this book written? Most children's and young adult books you find a moral or some type of character development. There is absolutely no character development in this book. Bruno is an unintelligent, spoiled child at the beginning of the book, who only wants to be an explorer. He never changes. He is the same selfish, not very smart child at the end of the book. There were 6,000 officers at the Auschwitz camps and yet we are led to believe that Bruno and his sister are the only non-Jewish children for miles and miles - that Bruno and his sister had absolutely no one else to play with. Bruno and his sister contract lice toward the end of the book. How did that happen? Lice don't jump or fly? You have to have close contact with someone who has lice. Share hats or coats, etc. Bruno and Shmuel are separated by a fence. So where did the lice come from? When the boys finally meet their demise, the author continues to get history wrong. When the Jews were gassed, they didn't go into the chambers with their clothes on; they were told to strip and ready themselves for a shower. And by the way, most 9 year old Jewish children upon arrival at Auschwitz were gassed. Finally how was it possible for these boys to chat each day for hours and no one saw them or missed them. I do not think I have ever read a book with so many medical, historical and logical fallacies.
Kid, 12 years old October 27, 2011
AGE
12
QUALITY
 

Loved it!

I picked this book up at the book store whilst looking for a book to read for my language arts class at school.I read it bit by bit, but it wasn't 'til the end when I really got into it.Mainly because it was due on monday, I had about 130 pages to read, and it was friday.Anyways aside from the point, once I really sat down properly and started reading the book, I couldn't put it down.The ending was so shocking and sad though, but I've always liked sad endings because I've found them to be more interesting.So basically to round things up-great book, educational, have to know at least a bit about WWII to sort of fill in the blanks, recommended!
What other families should know
Educational value

Poll

Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Essential Apps Guide