Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Boyne, John (Author)
David Fickling Books 2016. 218 pages
First published: 2006.
ISBN: 9780385751537 (paperback)
9781909531192 (paperback)
Original language: English
Book type: Novel
Book genre: Historical

Text Elements:

characterization, conflict, point of view, setting

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

It is 1942 Berlin and 9-year-old Bruno, the story’s narrator, is living an innocent and privileged life in a five-storey house with servants. He has good school friends and only suffers the torments of an older sister. When his family suddenly has to leave their life so that his father can accept a promotion to commandant for ‘the Fury’, they end up living in a bleak house called “Out-With.” From his window, Bruno can see barbed wire and all sorts of people dressed in striped pyjamas on the other side.

Bruno sets out adventuring along the fence line and encounters a little boy dressed in striped clothing named Shmuel, who is Jewish. They strike up a secret friendship and Bruno smuggles food to him, learning about life on the other side of the fence.

Readers are left to unpack the story as it unfolds, gaining knowledge at the same pace as the young narrator. “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.”

A terrible twist at the end leads to a deeply unsettling story about what can happen when we think we are exempt from the dangers of a destructive political regime.

  •  

    Before reading, discuss what you know about the Holocaust, concentration camps, Hitler, and Nazi Germany during World War II. As you begin to read, record the clues and information that help you recognize the setting and circumstances of the novel.

  •  The narrator of this story is a child. Consider if this narrator is reliable and discuss why the author chose to present his story this way. How would the book be different with a teen or adult narrator?
  •  

    The author uses puns like “The Fury” and “Out-With.” Discuss the author’s purpose for using this wordplay.

  •  

    This story has been called a fable. Explore other fables, (e.g. Aesop’s), and identify their codes and conventions. Discuss whether this story is actually a fable. With a partner or group, create your own fable and present it to your class.

  •  

    In small groups, and without doing any research, discuss what you believe life was like for kids in concentration camps during the second World War.

  •  

    As you read, look for clues that indicate how Bruno, Gretel and their mother feel about living in "Out-With".

  •  

    At the end, the author states that “of course all this happened a long time ago and nothing like that could ever happen again. Not in this day and age.” Do you believe the author is being truthful or sarcastic? Gather supporting evidence and answer by writing an argumentative essay.

  • To construct his/her identity
  • To solve problems
  • To use information
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Personal Development
  • Social Sciences