Study Guide

What Is The Boy in the Striped Pajamas About?

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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Introduction

Sometimes friendships form between the least likely people. Beauty and the Beast, Katniss and Peeta, the son of a Nazi and a kid inside a concentration camp… What's that? You're not familiar with the last example? Well, say hello to The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, then, a book that tells just this tale.

Published in 2006, this book by John Boyne is told from the point of view of nine-year-old Bruno, the German son of a Nazi soldier who moves with his family from Berlin to Poland. And when he arrives, it turns out that their new house is just a stone's throw away from the Auschwitz concentration camp. Uh-oh… But while plenty of terribleness ensues, something really incredible happens, too: Bruno befriends a kid on the other side of the fence, Shmuel. And these two become the truest of friends.

If you're looking for a book brimming with facts about the Holocaust and World War II, this is not that book (go ask a librarian for help, though—she'll hook you up). If, however, you're a sucker for against-all-odds friendship stories, then look no further. Majorly applauded, as well as turned into a major motion picture, there's no denying this book packs a punch on the friendship and storytelling fronts.

That said, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas has also received some scathing—and we do mean scathing—criticism. For all the love it's received, it's also been knocked off its pedestal time and again. So whether friendship's your thing or not, pick up a copy, then join in the debate. Who knows? Maybe you'll form your own unlikely friendship in the process.

What is The Boy in the Striped Pajamas About and Why Should I Care?

Be honest: Have you ever taken no for an answer? We'll admit that we have. And we're not just talking about when we'd ask our moms for more ice cream as kids—we've accepted nos and never minds and don't worry about its in response to more important queries before, too. Sometimes we've felt fine about this afterward—it's important to pick your battles, after all—but others, we haven't felt so good about. Sometimes you just have to keep pushing for an answer in order to fight the good fight.

And this is a lesson that The Boy in the Striped Pajamas teaches in spades. No one wants to tell Bruno, the main character, anything—and as the child of a Nazi commandant, who lives literally right next door to Auschwitz, he sees plenty of things that leave him curious about what's really going on. But whenever he asks, he's always brushed aside or told not to concern himself with such matters. Without giving away the ending, let's just say his unwillingness to insist on more information comes to cost him dearly.

While we hope you never encounter anything even remotely like the Holocaust, we're certain that you will encounter more moments in which you're given the choice to push for knowledge or turn away. And after reading this book, you just might find yourself refusing to quit your quest.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Resources


Dear John
Okay, this isn't really a place to write to John Boyne, but it is his website, and as such, it's brimming with information about his other books, news, biographical info, and more.

The United States Holocaust Museum—Online
The U.S. Holocaust Museum is chockfull of information about the Holocaust. Seriously. We're talking pictures, statistics, personal stories, film, and much more. If you're at all curious about the Holocaust, this is the website for you.

Visit Auschwitz Virtually
Auschwitz has been turned into a museum and memorial site. To really understand Bruno's neighbors, be sure to check out this website.

From the Mouths of Babes
You don't have to take Boyne's word for what it was like to be a child during the Holocaust. The Anti-Defamation League has stories from three different children who managed to survive. For real.

Movie or TV Productions

The Silver Screen
In 2008, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas was released as a movie. We think Bruno and Shmuel's friendship is totally worthy of the big screen.

Articles and Interviews

Two Thumbs Up
Okay, more like three-and-a-half stars. Either way, though, Roger Ebert gave the movie adaptation a glowing review.

A Rabbi's Review
Here, Rabbi Benjamin Blech offers a less positive view of the book. Okay, make that pretty much scathing.

On Second Thought, Maybe Don't See the Movie…
When it comes to the film version of this book, the New York Times is beyond unimpressed—they're pretty much appalled.


Say Hello
In this interview, our author and the movie director sit down and discuss the film version of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

Trailer Time
Around here, we absolutely love movie trailers. Here's the trailer for the 2008 movie production of our book for your enjoyment.

A Survivor Speaks Out
In this moving clip, one Holocaust survivor describes the liberation of Auschwitz from Nazi control. Note: This video contains some graphic images.


Meet You at the Theater
Check out the official movie poster. Can't you just feel the friendship growing?

We Know You're Not Supposed To…
… make snap judgments based on appearances, but we think the cover of this book is pretty pitch perfect.

Inside a Gas Chamber
It's hard to stomach, but Bruno and Shmuel wind up in a place just like this one.

Now Entering Auschwitz
This is a picture of the main entrance to Auschwitz. It's haunting.

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