At nine years old, Bruno’s world is turned upside down when his father gets promoted. He has to leave his home, his friends, and his grandparents and move to some place called Out-With. There is no one but soldiers for miles around, except for the people on the other side of the long, high fence. They all wear the same striped pajamas.
One day, Bruno decides to go exploring along the fence and he meets Shmuel, sitting in the dirt on the other side. Shmuel is Bruno’s age, and he wears the striped pajamas like everyone else on that side of the fence.
This is a wonderful story, and I’d like to get the negative out of the way first.
I’ve read several negative reviews of this book. They all focused on the historical inaccuracies and how “ridiculous” it is that the reader be expected to believe these two young boys could repeatedly meet at a concentration camp fence with no one ever knowing. These things may be valid arguments, but there is something these reviewers are overlooking: this is a fable. The title page clearly states that.
The author’s intent is not to give a history lesson, but a moral one. The story is about childhood innocence in contrast to adult prejudices. The Holocaust is what Boyne used as his setting. In fact, the author is careful not to mention the actual name of the concentration camp, though people who know the history will easily guess the one implied.
In this moral lesson, Boyne succeeds. And despite the inaccuracies, or stretches of the imagination the story requires, I believe this could be an excellent way to introduce young people to the idea of the Holocaust (suggested reading age is 12+, but I think a mature 10 year old could do well with it). The reading would have to be guided, and fact separated from fiction, but there are lessons to be learned here, and if a child can connect emotionally with this story, it will make that child all the more eager to learn the truth.
1) Overall Plot = 4.5
2) Characters = 4.5
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 5
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 5
Average of score 4.8 out of 5