When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move from their home to a new house far far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence running alongside stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people he can see in the distance.
But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different to his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.
About the Author
John Boyne is a full-time writer living in Dublin. He was writer-in-residence at the University of East Anglia in Creative Writing and spent many years working as a bookseller. This is his first book for young readers. The author lives in Dublin, Ireland.
Read an Excerpt
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
By John Boyne
David Fickling BooksCopyright © 2006 John Boyne All right reserved.
Chapter One Bruno Makes a Discovery One afternoon, when Bruno came home from school, he was surprised to find Maria, the family's maid -- who always kept her head bowed and never looked up from the carpet -- standing in his bedroom, pulling all his belongings out of the wardrobe and packing them in four large wooden crates, even the things he'd hidden at the back that belonged to him and were nobody else's business.
'What are you doing?' he asked in as polite a tone as he could muster, for although he wasn't happy to come home and find someone going through his possessions, his mother had always told him that he was to treat Maria respectfully and not just imitate the way Father spoke to her. 'You take your hands off my things.'
Maria shook her head and pointed towards the staircase behind him, where Bruno's mother had just appeared. She was a tall woman with long red hair that she bundled into a sort of net behind her head, and she was twisting her hands together nervously as if there was something she didn't want to have to say or something she didn't want to have to believe.
'Mother,' said Bruno, marching towards her, 'what's going on? Why is Maria going through my things?'
'She's packing them,' explained Mother.
'Packing them?' he asked, runningquickly through the events of the previous few days to consider whether he'd been particularly naughty or had used those words out loud that he wasn't allowed to use and was being sent away because of it. He couldn't think of anything though. In fact over the last few days he had behaved in a perfectly decent manner to everyone and couldn't remember causing any chaos at all. 'Why?' he asked then. 'What have I done?'
Mother had walked into her own bedroom by then but Lars, the butler, was in there, packing her things too. She sighed and threw her hands in the air in frustration before march-ing back to the staircase, followed by Bruno, who wasn't going to let the matter drop without an explanation.
'Mother,' he insisted. 'What's going on? Are we moving?'
'Come downstairs with me,' said Mother, leading the way towards the large dining room where the Fury had been to dinner the week before. 'We'll talk down there.'
Bruno ran downstairs and even passed her out on the staircase so that he was waiting in the dining room when she arrived. He looked at her without saying anything for a moment and thought to himself that she couldn't have applied her make-up correctly that morning because the rims of her eyes were more red than usual, like his own after he'd been causing chaos and got into trouble and ended up crying.
'Now, you don't have to worry, Bruno,' said Mother, sitting down in the chair where the beautiful blonde woman who had come to dinner with the Fury had sat and waved at him when Father closed the doors. 'In fact if anything it's going to be a great adventure.'
'What is?' he asked. 'Am I being sent away?'
'No, not just you,' she said, looking as if she might smile for a moment but thinking better of it. 'We all are. Your father and I, Gretel and you. All four of us.'
Bruno thought about this and frowned. He wasn't particularly bothered if Gretel was being sent away because she was a Hopeless Case and caused nothing but trouble for him. But it seemed a little unfair that they all had to go with her.
'But where?' he asked. 'Where are we going exactly? Why can't we stay here?'
'Your father's job,' explained Mother. 'You know how important it is, don't you?'
'Yes, of course,' said Bruno, nodding his head, because there were always so many visitors to the house -- men in fantastic uniforms, women with typewriters that he had to keep his mucky hands off -- and they were always very polite to Father and told each other that he was a man to watch and that the Fury had big things in mind for him.
'Well, sometimes when someone is very important,' continued Mother, 'the man who employs him asks him to go somewhere else because there's a very special job that needs doing there.'
'What kind of job?' asked Bruno, because if he was honest with himself -- which he always tried to be -- he wasn't entirely sure what job Father did.
In school they had talked about their fathers one day and Karl had said that his father was a greengrocer, which Bruno knew to be true because he ran the greengrocer's shop in the centre of town. And Daniel had said that his father was a teacher, which Bruno knew to be true because he taught the big boys who it was always wise to steer clear of. And Martin had said that his father was a chef, which Bruno knew to be true because he sometimes collected Martin from school and when he did he always wore a white smock and a tartan apron, as if he'd just stepped out of his kitchen.
But when they asked Bruno what his father did he opened his mouth to tell them, then realized that he didn't know himself. All he could say was that his father was a man to watch and that the Fury had big things in mind for him. Oh, and that he had a fantastic uniform too.
'It's a very important job,' said Mother, hesitating for a moment. 'A job that needs a very special man to do it. You can understand that, can't you?'
'And we all have to go too?' asked Bruno.
'Of course we do,' said Mother. 'You wouldn't want Father to go to his new job on his own and be lonely there, would you?'
'I suppose not,' said Bruno.
'Father would miss us all terribly if we weren't with him,' she added.
'Who would he miss the most?' asked Bruno. 'Me or Gretel?'
'He would miss you both equally,' said Mother, for she was a great believer in not play-ing favourites, which Bruno respected, especially since he knew that he was her favourite really.
'But what about our house?' asked Bruno. 'Who's going to take care of it while we're gone?'
Mother sighed and looked around the room as if she might never see it again. It was a very beautiful house and had five floors in total, if you included the basement, where Cook made all the food and Maria and Lars sat at the table argu-ing with each other and calling each other names that you weren't supposed to use. And if you added in the little room at the top of the house with the slanted windows where Bruno could see right across Berlin if he stood up on his tiptoes and held on to the frame tightly.
'We have to close up the house for now,' said Mother. 'But we'll come back to it someday.'
'And what about Cook?' asked Bruno. 'And Lars? And Maria? Are they not going to live in it?'
'They're coming with us,' explained Mother. 'But that's enough questions for now. Maybe you should go upstairs and help Maria with your packing.'
Bruno stood up from the seat but didn't go anywhere. There were just a few more questions he needed to put to her before he could allow the matter to be settled.
'And how far away is it?' he asked. 'The new job, I mean. Is it further than a mile away?'
'Oh my,' said Mother with a laugh, although it was a strange kind of laugh because she didn't look happy and turned away from Bruno as if she didn't want him to see her face. 'Yes, Bruno,' she said. 'It's more than a mile away. Quite a lot more than that, in fact.'
Bruno's eyes opened wide and his mouth made the shape of an O. He felt his arms stretching out at his sides like they did whenever something surprised him. 'You don't mean we're leaving Berlin?' he asked, gasping for air as he got the words out.
'I'm afraid so,' said Mother, nodding her head sadly. 'Your father's job is-'
'But what about school?' said Bruno, inter-rupting her, a thing he knew he was not supposed to do but which he felt he would be forgiven for on this occasion. 'And what about Karl and Daniel and Martin? How will they know where I am when we want to do things together?'
'You'll have to say goodbye to your friends for the time being,' said Mother. 'Although I'm sure you'll see them again in time. And don't interrupt your mother when she's talking, please,' she added, for although this was strange and unpleasant news, there was certainly no need for Bruno to break the rules of politeness which he had been taught.
'Say goodbye to them?' he asked, staring at her in surprise. 'Say goodbye to them?' he repeated, spluttering out the words as if his mouth was full of biscuits that he'd munched into tiny pieces but not actually swallowed yet. 'Say goodbye to Karl and Daniel and Martin?' he continued, his voice coming dangerously close to shouting, which was not allowed indoors. 'But they're my three best friends for life!'
'Oh, you'll make other friends,' said Mother, waving her hand in the air dismissively, as if the making of a boy's three best friends for life was an easy thing.
'But we had plans,' he protested.
'Plans?' asked Mother, raising an eyebrow. 'What sort of plans?'
'Well, that would be telling,' said Bruno, who could not reveal the exact nature of the plans -- which included causing a lot of chaos, especially in a few weeks' time when school finished for the summer holidays and they didn't have to spend all their time just making plans but could actually put them into effect instead.
'I'm sorry, Bruno,' said Mother, 'but your plans are just going to have to wait. We don't have a choice in this.'
'Bruno, that's enough,' she said, snapping at him now and standing up to show him that she was serious when she said that was enough. 'Honestly, only last week you were complaining about how much things have changed here recently.'
'Well, I don't like the way we have to turn all the lights off at night now,' he admitted.
'Everyone has to do that,' said Mother. 'It keeps us safe. And who knows, maybe we'll be in less danger if we move away. Now, I need you to go upstairs and help Maria with your packing. We don't have as much time to prepare as I would have liked, thanks to some people.'
Bruno nodded and walked away sadly, know-ing that 'some people' was a grown-up's word for 'Father' and one that he wasn't supposed to use himself.
He made his way up the stairs slowly, holding on to the banister with one hand, and wondered whether the new house in the new place where the new job was would have as fine a banister to slide down as this one did. For the banister in this house stretched from the very top floor -- just outside the little room where, if he stood on his tiptoes and held on to the frame of the window tightly, he could see right across Berlin -- to the ground floor, just in front of the two enormous oak doors. And Bruno liked nothing better than to get on board the banister at the top floor and slide his way through the house, making whooshing sounds as he went.
Down from the top floor to the next one, where Mother and Father's room was, and the large bathroom, and where he wasn't supposed to be in any case.
Down to the next floor, where his own room was, and Gretel's room too, and the smaller bath-room which he was supposed to use more often than he really did.
Down to the ground floor, where you fell off the end of the banister and had to land flat on your two feet or it was five points against you and you had to start all over again.
The banister was the best thing about this house -- that and the fact that Grandfather and Grandmother lived so near by -- and when he thought about that it made him wonder whether they were coming to the new job too and he presumed that they were because they could hardly be left behind. No one needed Gretel much because she was a Hopeless Case -- it would be a lot easier if she stayed to look after the house -- but Grandfather and Grandmother? Well, that was an entirely different matter.
Bruno went up the stairs slowly towards his room, but before going inside he looked back down towards the ground floor and saw Mother entering Father's office, which faced the dining room -- and was Out Of Bounds At All Times And No Exceptions -- and he heard her speaking loudly to him until Father spoke louder than Mother could and that put a stop to their conversation. Then the door of the office closed and Bruno couldn't hear any more so he thought it would be a good idea if he went back to his room and took over the packing from Maria, because otherwise she might pull all his belongings out of the wardrobe without any care or consideration, even the things he'd hidden at the back that belonged to him and were nobody else's business.
Excerpted from The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne Copyright © 2006 by John Boyne. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Reading Group Guide
1. Discuss the relationship between Bruno and Gretel. Why does Bruno seem younger than nine? In a traditional fable, characters are usually one-sided. How might Bruno and Gretel be considered one-dimensional?
2. At age 12, Gretel is the proper age for membership in the League of Young Girls, a branch of Hitler’s Youth Organization. Why do you think she is not a member, especially since her father is a high-ranking officer in Hitler's army?
3. What is it about the house at Out-With that makes Bruno feel “cold and unsafe”? How is this feeling perpetuated as he encounters people like Pavel, Maria, Lt. Kotler, and Shmuel?
4. Describe his reaction when he first sees the people in the striped pajamas. What does Gretel mean when she says, “Something about the way [Bruno] was watching made her feel suddenly nervous”? (p. 28) How does this statement foreshadow Bruno’s ultimate demise?
5. Bruno asks his father about the people outside their house at Auschwitz. His father answers, “They’re not people at all Bruno.” (p. 53) Discuss the horror of this attitude. How does his father’s statement make Bruno more curious about Out-With?
6. Explain what Bruno’s mother means when she says, “We don’t have the luxury of thinking.” (p. 13) Identify scenes from the novel that Bruno’s mother isn’t happy about their life at Out-With. Debate whether she is unhappy being away from Berlin, or whether she is angry about her husband’s position. How does Bruno’s grandmother react to her son’s military role?
7. When Bruno and his family board the train for Auschwitz, he notices an over-crowded train headed in the same direction. How does he later make the connection between Shmuel and that train? How are both trains symbolic of each boy’s final journey?
8. Bruno issues a protest about leaving Berlin. His father responds, “Do you think that I would have made such a success of my life if I hadn’t learned when to argue and when to keep my mouth shut and follow orders?” (p. 49) What question might Bruno’s father ask at the end of the novel?
9. A pun is most often seen as humorous. But, in this novel the narrator uses dark or solemn puns like Out-With and Fury to convey certain meanings. Bruno is simply mispronouncing the real words, but the author is clearly asking the reader to consider a double meaning to these words. Discuss the use of this wordplay as a literary device. What is the narrator trying to convey to the reader? How do these words further communicate the horror of the situation?
10. When Bruno dresses in the filthy striped pajamas, he remembers something his grandmother once said. “You wear the right outfit and you feel like the person you’re pretending to be.” (p, 205) How is this true for Bruno? What about his father? What does this statement contribute to the overall meaning of the story?
11. Discuss the moral or message of the novel. What new insights and understandings does John Boyne want the reader to gain from reading this story?
12. Discuss the differences in a fable, an allegory, and a proverb. How might this story fit into each genre?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, is one the most touching,inspirational and heart warming book I have read! When you are finished with the book the story of Shmuel and Bruno will always be with you. I recommend this book to anyone!. But be prepared, make sure you have a box of kleenex with you, it sure will bring on the waterworks :]
The book is written from a perspective that's hard to write from. Seeing the Holocaust through the eyes of a child is a view I haven't seen before. Boyne captures this perspective very well. The ending was very rushed. It was all summed up in about two pages. That's the only thing bad about this book. If you're looking for a book to start a discussion in a classroom or inspire writers to write outside of the box, then this is your book.
Its a heartbreaking story about a boy named Bruno and his new found friend Shmuel. This book will keep your atention the intire time you are reading it. Stop reading reveiws and just read the book!
I could not put this book down. I have read the criticism for this book, that a Commandant's son could not be so naive, but I disagree. Children are some of thr purest souls living. They have to be taught hate and Bruno although was given explanations, was not. I almost cried at thr end! Good easy read that touches parts of the imagination most of us seldom use anymore.
I finished this book yesterday and all I can say: It is very touching. This has a story you won't forget easily. Had to cry a lot.
EVEN IN LIFE'S MOST DARKNESS DAYS THERE IS LIGHT FOR BEAUTY ESPECIALLY
IN THESE TWO YOUNG PEOPLE. ALTHOUGH, BOTH ON OPPOSITE ENDS OF THE FENCE
THEY SHARED NAVIETEE, INNOCENCE AND FRIENDSHIP. BY THEM WALKING INTO
THE DARKNESS HOLDING HANDS AND REASSURING EACH OTHER THAT EVERYTHING WILL
BE ALRIGHT SHOWS HOPE FOR HUMANITY. HOPEFULLY, THIS EVILNESS WILL NEVER
RESURFACE, UNFORTUNATELY, IT STILL SHOWS ITS FACE IN THESE TRYING TIMES.
PEOPLE EVERYWHERE SHOULD READ THIS BOOK AND THINK ABOUT THE CONSEQUENCES OF DEGRADING OTHERS IN NAMES, WORDS AND ACTIONS. WE SHOULD TAKE A LESSON FROM THESE TWO BEAUTIFUL YOUNG PEOPLE, IT MAYBE WORTH IT. I THANK THE AUTHOR FOR WRITING SUCH A GIFTED BOOK AND HOPE THERE WILL BE OTHERS.
This story touched my heart. Little Shmuel grew on you and so did Bruno. I had to read this for a book report and it broke my heart but it is an absolutely amazing book that I will never forget ! Read it, because I know you won't forget it. Its so innocent because the main character is only 9 and he doesn't fully understand the situation which is kinda sad though. Its a great book :]
The boy in the Striped Pajamas is definitely a touching read that I will not forget. Its writing style makes the book open to the audience whether it be adults or young teenagers. The book gives us a story from the point of view of an innocent 9 year old child, the son of a Nazi commander, who meets Shmuel, a 9 year old jewish child. Neither of these boys have been corrupted by the society that surrounds them and their innocence gives the novel more access to the reader's heart. Although the information about the Holocaust may not be the most accurate, this book is made to touch the reader, not give the reader a lesson. The book does manage to give the reader an idea of how cruel and brutal the holocaust really was. This book grabs and tangles up in you and wont let you go until you have finished reading, and gives you the perfect example of how simple and sweet children can be. Children who have not yet been corrupted by society and simply live without judging others, accepting and sharing with everyone, this novel shares their feelings with us and opens the mind of the innocent for us to read. The ending of the book did make me feel quite queazy and I admit, I felt like putting the book away and never looking at it again. But the book taught me too much to put it away. The power of this book will touch all readers and forever more be engraved in their hearts.
I can't say enough about this book; the writing is just amazing, the characters feel so real and the situation incredible. Even though the book goes from the present to the past, to learn the back story, you will have no problem following the story. You can't help but feel for Bruno--at times, you wish you were by his side to tell him what he should do. And not to ruin the end, but it was an ending I just didn't see coming. John Boyne has written a memoriable novel that should be shared with everyone you know!
After first seeing this movie, I had to read the story. It was truly a heart-breaking tale of two young and children caught up in a horrible situation that ended too tragicly. While the movie really showed what happened to the two boys, the book left it completely out and really did not explain realistically what happened to them. Was there a reason for this? I wonder if the author did this on purpose or did the film-maker put that in for the movie audience. It certainly was a shocking end and left me totally wiped out and in tears. But it was a wonderfully written book and one that should be read by a lot of people.
Do you read books recall the title and yet forget exactly what the book was about. This won't happen with The BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS.It is for adults as well as teeneagers and a book that lingers in your mind long after reading it. It is simply written but 'Oh MY' !
This book puts the Holocaust in two inocent boys points of view. This book is sad yet it shows us love and hope. You better read this book!!!
this book really pulled at my heart strings, and ibelieve that everyone should read it. my 6th grade step-brother still doesnt know what the holocaust is and i am going to try to get him to read it. it was a great read and what really got me was the realism and attitude of Bruno and Shmul. it is a beautiful story and i am happy that i read it.
While i was reading 'boy in the striped pajamas' a touching story of freindship between a jewish boy at a consentration camp and a clueless german boy will really reach out to ages between 11 and 19. I read this when i was studiing the second world war and had peers that recomended this fabulous book to me. When i read i didnt want to put it down. Thank you for your time
I recommend this book for others to buy, it is a wonderful book, if you enjoy reading about the holocost and slavery.
I would recommend this book to people who have an interest in history-especially in World War II. What I liked about this book is the tragic story about Shmuel and Bruno. This is a story about friendship. Bruno and Shmuel really show what true friendship is about. After days of not seeing his father, Shmuel and Bruno went on a "walk". They never came back. The sad truth is that the holocaust killed millions of Jewish people. I would want to read "The Thief of Time" by John Boyne. Just by reading the title the book sounds interesting. "Next of Kin" also sounds interesting. I like picking books by the name of the title. I would like a sequel to the book. I don't think that one book should cover the interesting stories of the holocaust.
This is an awesome book for adults and young teens. It's a must read for everyone to remember that this really did happen, and to children.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas By Lizzy Mahoney Bruno is a 9 - year - old boy who has a comfy life in Berlin. He has a maid, a butler, and a cook. Bruno doesn't know what it's like to have nothing. But that changes when his family moves to Auschwitz. In The boy in the striped pajamas, John Boyne writes this compelling story about Bruno. When Bruno is forced to move away from his enormous house with his family, his life will change forever. Besides moving in to a smaller house with no "nooks and cranes" to explore, besides having no one to play with except for his older sister, he is surrounded by soldiers that go in and out of his father's office.Bruno misses his friends, his grandparents, and everything else in Berlin. 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. A powerful story with emotions and pajamas. It takes some time for Bruno to realize what is happening but it all comes together like the pieces of a puzzle. This story will keep readers thinking about what really happened during the Holocaust. The boy in the striped pajamas is Newberry quality.
I literally love this book! It is so beautifully written and the ending is so emotional, its amazing.
Says he wrote the manuscript for this book within 12 hours, I believe it. This story is certainly sad, but not the best. It's too easy of a read and can be annoying at times because, well, its through the eyes of a small boy. I like the fact that he is a virgin to what is actually happening around him, but it the story is just a little too fake for my taste. I think it would have been written better if the author did some more research into WW2 and therefore could have come up with a better story for this little boy.
This is the most amazing book ever! I recommend it!
I think that this book was very well written, with many memorable characters. I wouldn't recomend this book to ten year olds because they may not understand it too well. Although this book may have a sad ending this story should be very serious like a lot of it is. Those times were dark times with hatred for other people just because of how the look or what religion they choose to follow. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I do.
this book broke me down in tears it was touching emotional roller coaster people
This book ways increastingly boring Did Bruno die?
This book is about a young boy, named Bruno who's father is a soldier for Germany. They have to move away from Berlin to a place only the father knows is called. The story is very emotional and the ending is very upsetting but, real . This is a story you won't forget.