“The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” by John Boyne: a book review

Simply put, this is one of those fablelike books that come around once a lifetime, filled with messages about humanity that serve as entertaining lessons for children, teens, adults, and the elderly. This is just good writing — just a book, not meant for any sub-genre category.

In this brief book, about 210 pages, big font and margins, you can fully absorb yourself in one day into a Holocaust story told in a way that is as unique as the title. Without ever saying “Holocaust” or “Auschwitz” and leaving out painful slangs and hyper-violence and sex, this still hits hard and will stir you deep. Through our collective culture’s global understanding and our personal interpretations of what happened in Poland and Germany in WWII, we’ve all been given a lifetime of details from our movies we’ve watched and our lessons from school and the stories we’ve heard from the elderly.

With this personal information we all carry, and our own relationship to it, the author shows us something fresh; he shows us this time in human history through the eyes of a naive nine-year old son of a Commandant who lives just outside of a “camp” and makes friends with a Jewish boy on the other side of the fence. Third-person, but mostly from Bruno’s perspective, we watch a German boy’s desire to be around others and find happiness through very specific cultural “lenses.” German lenses. Heavy stuff and easy to empathize to nearly all the characters.

(The movie adaptation was great, but I still recommend reading the book first.)

Staggeringly simple, short, and tightly written, this novel is equally harsh, inventive, artistic and important — while most importantly, being accessible to any age.

Worth owning and a Must-Read. One of the great “Holocaust” tales, just as important (if not more so) for kids to read than “Diary of Anne Frank.”

5/5

MH

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