The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Patty Osborne

Sixty-three years after the Holocaust, the phrase “boy in striped pajamas” evokes such a strong image of concentration camps that it is difficult to imagine anyone being innocent of its hidden meaning, but nine-year-old Bruno, the main character in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne (David Fickling Books), does not have the advantage of hindsight. All he knows is that his family is leaving Berlin to live at “Out-With,” Bruno’s pronunciation of the name of the camp where his father is now commandant. The yard of the family’s house is separated from the camp by a wire fence, but Bruno, who has no playmates at home, makes friends with Schmuel, a boy of the same age who lives on the other side of the fence and wears striped pajamas. Bruno’s naïveté about the goings-on inside the camp, even while other members of the family express differing opinions about both Jews and camps, is at times unbelievable, but not so far-fetched as to stop the reader from continuing, with grim fascination, to the final pages. Bruno eventually borrows pajamas from his friend and sneaks under the wire. The simple language, slow pace and obvious message of the story keep it in the realm of YA fiction, but to see things from Bruno’s unique vantage, however oversimplified, is valuable for anyone.

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