A review of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

Reviewed by Cleo Scott Huggins

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
by John Boyne
Penguin Random House
ISBN: 9781909531192, 256pages, Feb 2014, Paperback

John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is the story of Bruno, of Berlin, of striped pyjamas, a fence, and a camp with lots of boys.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas introduces us to a range of diverse characters including Bruno, the main character. Bruno is an adventurous boy who loves to explore. Gretel, Bruno’s older sister is temperamental and dismissive of her younger brother, as teenage girls often are! The boy at the fence is a sad and lonely person until he meets Bruno, who gives him hope. Elsa, Bruno’s mother, is a strong and kind-hearted person, but is capable of bad things. Ralf, Bruno’s father, holds a senior position with his employer. His children do not know what their father really does, but know that he is tough, and a leader in both his job and his household. He is not to be messed with. Maria is the maid for Bruno’s family.

Bruno is living his perfect life in Berlin until his father is promoted and they are required to move. Their new home, Out-With, is not at all like Berlin, and for Bruno, there is nowhere for him to explore at this new place, not like there was in Berlin – every corner at Out-With is sealed. There is also no one to play with at Out-With, not like there was in Berlin, where he had his three best friends for life.

One day, at his new home, Bruno looks out of his bedroom window and sees something shocking. Bruno decides to walk along the extremely long fence close to his house, without his parent’s permission. After what seems like forever, he comes across a blob. The blob turns into a stick figure. The stick figure turns into a boy. A boy in striped pajamas.

Set in Nazi Germany during World War II, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas takes the reader on a journey through the eyes of a young, ignorant boy. This story filled me with sadness, but also made me laugh out loud. I would recommend this book for both boys and girls aged 12 to 15 years of age. While this book made me sad, I think it provides an important insight into our history and the differing perspectives of people.

About the reviewer: Cleo was Commended in the 2019 Hunter Writers’ Centre/Compulsive Reader Review competition. She is in Year 7 and her favourite subjects are French, English and Art. Cleo has participated in the Premier’s Reading Challenge since she started school. Cleo plays Goal Shooter, Goal Attack and Centre in her local netball team, which she loves. Cleo has a Weimaraner puppy and hopes to become an actress.