Emirates Literature Foundation Blog (ELF)

Book Review: The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas By John Boyne

By: Isha R. Nair

Here from one of our passionate readers!

The Boy In the Striped Pyjamas is set in Germany during Hitler’s rule. The novel follows the story of Bruno, a 9-year-old boy from Berlin who was sent to "Out-with" along with his father, a Commandant in Hitler’s army, his mum, his 12-year-old-sister Gretel – whom he calls a "Hopeless Case" – and Maria the maid. They start living in a house which is a small and lonely place. Bruno doesn't like it at all and misses his friends back in Berlin.  

His loneliness ends when he meets Shmuel a boy on the other side of the wired wall. Bruno confides everything to Shmuel, who in turn confides everything to Bruno. Shmuel says that his father, grandfather, and brother are with him on his side of the fence, but he is separated from his mother. Bruno and Shmuel talk and become very good friends, although Bruno still does not understand very much about Shmuel and what goes on the other side of the fence. Nearly every day Bruno goes to see Shmuel and even sneaks him food. 

One day, Bruno hatches a plan with Shmuel to sneak into the camp to look for Shmuel's father, as Shmuel tells Bruno that his father has disappeared. Shmuel brings a set of prison clothes which look to Bruno like striped pyjamas, which he wears before crossing the fence. As they search the camp, both children are forced to join a group of prisoners. They are led into a gas chamber, which Bruno thinks is simply a shelter from the outside rainstorm. In the gas chamber, Bruno feels sorry and apologizes to Shmuel for not finding his father and tells Shmuel that he is his best friend for life. It's unknown if Shmuel answers him because as soon as the door is closed, the lights go out and there is a lot of confusion and noise. However, Bruno is determined that even in chaos, he will never let go of Shmuel's hand.
Bruno is never seen again... But his experience will touch readers hearts and will teach them about the horrors of war. Read this book to understand how his father was indirectly involved in Bruno’s fate and what happened to his sister Gretel and his mother.
This influential book by John Boyne is a mixture of friendship and love, and a story of innocence in a world of ignorance. This book was made into a film and won 2 Irish Book Awards. I recommend this book for all nine to 12-year-old readers.

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Isha Rajeev Nair is a student at Kings School Nad Al Sheba. A voracious reader from a very young age, Isha believes in exploring multiple genres and has been an influence in her peers' reading choices. Her interests include writing poetry and she has had her poems published on various platforms and is about to publish her first book of poetry. Among her many accomplishments is her position as an India Book of Records Title Holder, as well as being a double winner of the Browzly competition. She is also the youngest winner of the BSME Ed Goodwin Award. Isha is committed to social causes and is a brand ambassador for the student-led eco-initiative Green Gratitude and Water Alliance.