The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

I first read The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas myself years ago. It is a children’s book and it is a brilliant read. It is just as good for adults as for children.

But the ending! Oh the ending… I never could have seen anything like that coming and it had me in absolute bits. I’ve rarely cried so much over the ending of a book. And, as I recall, I was sat in public watching swimming lessons at the time.

My daughter is in year 6 and has been learning about World War II. They have touched on the Holocaust, although they don’t go into too much detail as it really is too horrific for kids of her age to learn about. She is a girl who enjoys moving books (she is addicted to Jacqueline Wilson and every single one of her books is moving), so I felt she was ready for The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

John Boyne’s novel is moving and because we understand it. But, taken at a basic level, it is simple and innocent. The story is told from the point of view of Bruno, a rich, sheltered little German boy. What he doesn’t know is that his father is very senior in the Nazi party. One day, ‘the Fury’ comes to dinner and soon afterwards 9 year old Bruno, his mother, father and sister Gretel move to a house in the middle of nowhere – ‘Out-With’.

Bruno hates it at Out-With – the house only has three floors rather than five, he has no friends nearby and there are no cafes and shops. Instead, there are soldiers in and out of his house all the time. And a long fence, with people on the other side. Strangely to Bruno, all of the people on the other side wear the same striped pyjamas.

One day, Bruno meets a little boy sat on the other side of the fence. The two boys become friends and Bruno gradually forgets his old life in Berlin. He longs to be able to play with his new friend. He knows there are hundreds of children on the other side of the fence. Surely there are shops and cafes too?

Their worlds are so far apart, that neither boy can really understand the other boy’s life at all, yet their unlikely friendship gets stronger and stronger.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is an absolutely beautiful book and I would recommend it for adults and children over the age of 10 alike.

But watch out for that ending… Even though I knew what was going to happen, I was still unable to read it to my daughter without crying.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Book review, John Boyne, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

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Author: Sarah Mummy

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  1. Oh gosh I’ve heard of this book but I’ve never read a review of it before. I’d really like to read it, I enjoy historical fiction. I really enjoyed The Book Thief. I like the idea of reading it myself before I end up reading it with Libby so I know what’s coming at the end!

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    • It’s a brilliant book! I loved The Book Thief too. Definitely one to read yourself before introducing the kids to it – and definitely don’t read it to them too early! x

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  2. I just can’t bring myself to read it. I’ve seen the movie a few times and I’m not sure if it’s all true to the book but the ending is definitely the same and it’s so harrowing. Those poor people in the holocaust 🙁

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    • It’s unbelievable what people went through.
      The way the book is written partly avoids the horrors because it’s implied rather than explicit. Bruno, the main character, has no idea what’s going on over the fence and it’s all written from his point of view. It’s very powerful.

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  3. I have to admit I’ve watched the film but i’m yet to read the book! Thanks for sharing with #ReadWithMe

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    • You should definitely read the book! It is written in a brilliant way.

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  4. Oh I don’t think I could bring myself to read this – all too real and too much.
    Great review though

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    • It’s a brilliant book – very moving, but most things are implied rather than explicit.

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    • Thank you! It really is a wonderful book 🙂

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  5. I’ve not read this, I’m not sure I could it sounds very harrowing. I do have a daughter the right age for reading it though, maybe I could be brave enough to read it together, it’s a history that’s hard to hide from. Great review x

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    • Reading it together is a great idea. I was glad I could share it with my daughter as we could talk about it. It’s such an important part of history and it isn’t too graphic for kids. x

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  6. This sounds like a great book to help children understand an important part of history. I’ll make sure that I have tissues on hand.


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    • You will definitely need tissues! It is a very good introduction to the Holocaust, written in a way kids can follow.

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  7. It’s a while since I read this but I still remember how powerful it is. I did question how likely it would be for a 9yo to be so oblivious to what was happening but his innocence does make the book accessible to children of a similar age. #readwithme

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  8. I’ve been meaning to read this forever, I really should find myself a copy.

    I have finally read The Book Thief which is a similar theme and that had me in pieces too.

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