The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

by John Boyne
240 pages, Historical Fiction
Reviewed by Clodsley S.

Painfully naive fable of a boy with an innocent view of the Holocaust.


9-year-old Bruno loves life in Berlin in the 1940s. But when the Fury gives his father a new assignment as a Commandant at "Out-With", Bruno's life changes. He meets a boy named Shmuel, who lives on the other side of a fence by his new house. Bruno doesn't know a lot about Shmuel's life on the other side of the fence, but he does know that the boy is a Jew and wears strange striped pajamas, and Bruno wonders why he lives on that side of the fence.


The people Bruno is surrounded with are seen by him as good people, though it is implied that they aren't. Bruno sees good people as being like his father, who runs a concentration camp. The story takes place in the 1940s, which is in the midst of Word War II. The themes of the book include racism and discrimination. Many of the Nazis in the story either subtly or blatantly disrespect the Jews, notably Lieutenant Kotler. However, the writer does not shine a good light on the Nazis. Hitler is depicted as a cruel man and Shmuel is a very good friend to Bruno. Bruno's grandmother rebukes how he has become a Nazi, which depicts the divide between their family.

Spiritual Content

Since this is a book about the Holocaust there are many references to Jews, though no real direct references to God or Christianity. Bruno attends a church service for his grandmother's funeral and it is briefly mentioned that he and his family attend church.


It's implied that Lt. Kotler beats/hits Shmuel and another man. He shoots a dog, which Bruno sees. Other implied deaths happen at the end. An insane man hits his fists against a brick wall until they bleed.

Drug and Alcohol Content

The adults drink wine at dinner. Bruno's grandmother may have been drunk (it said that "her words were surprisingly slurred") when she yells at her son. Bruno's mother drinks medication sherries. Bruno's father smokes cigarettes, as do his cohorts.

Sexual Content

Bruno's sister Gretel has a crush on Lieutenant Kotler and is often with him or waiting for him, but their relationship never goes far. The relationship between Bruno's mother and Lt. Kotler, however, seems to become slightly affair-esque. As Gretel gets older, Bruno's mother tells him she is "going through a phase".

Crude or Profane Language or Content

Insults against Jews are implied but never spoken. The overall behaviors of the Nazis are not favorable, and a few other milder insults such as Bruno and his sister calling each other--and sometimes their elders--"stupid" appear throughout the book. Bruno is rather defiant in his behavior.


Naive and innocent, "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" is painful to read. The Holocaust looks tame in the eyes of a young boy whose father is a Nazi. Another painful realization that readers will make is that "Fury" and "Out-With" are tragic puns. While not openly violent, violence is implied, as are insults. Other than that there is no swearing or violence. But "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" is a very mature book for teens and adults.

Fun Score: 5
Values Score: 4
Written for Age: 13+

Review Rating:

Did we miss something? Let us know!

Clodsley S. This review is brought to you by Clodsley S..
Read more reviews by Clodsley S.