Forbidden Friendship in the Worst of Times


Bruno (9) isn’t happy to see his family moving from their home in Berlin to a place far away. He used to have three amazing friends and so many nooks and crannies to explore in his hometown. In his new home, Bruno can interact only with Gretel (12), whom he describes as a “hopeless case of a sister" and his dominating parents.

Bruno hates the fact that his new home in “Out-With” is small, restrictive, and nothing like his old home. He is lonely. The town begins to grow on him when he befriends Shmuel, a boy on the other side of the fence. The boys meet regularly at the fence, and Shmuel tells Bruno his family was forced to move here and that he cannot find his father. Their friendship would go on to transform their lives and their worlds forever, in a way no one would expect. 

BTSYA / Teen Reader (16):
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is powerful and incredibly moving.  The story is told from a unique perspective: a child oblivious to the world around him. Readers will relate to Bruno’s feelings of being in a new strange place, which helps the story build up to its unexpected ending. Readers will also enjoy the growing friendship between Bruno and Shmuel.

The author's writing style pulled at my heartstrings. It was heartwarming to see a beautiful friendship, but heartbreaking to read what was to come. Some readers may find the story unrealistic, but it is still very touching and eye-opening. This book would make a great gift for fans of historical fiction and/or emotional stories. 

Reader Enjoyment Factors:

Exceptional writing immerses readers on the lives of two boys living in the same German town, but with very different lives. Bruno, the naive son of a successful businessman, lives in a house with his family in a town called Out With. Shmuel, a Jewish boy, lives inside a fenced compound in Out With. The boys begin meeting at the fence, and a forbidden friendship is forged.

Content Awareness Factors:

The story is set in a fictional Auschwitz during the Holocaust. There is implied violence and death, as well as emotional violence. Our teen reader advises that the book isn’t very graphic in detailing the events of the Holocaust, but still suggests that it is more suitable for readers 12 years and older.

Type of Book:
This is an historical fiction novel about two boys growing up in the Holocaust.
Educational Themes:

Bruno gives readers a perspective of life living "next door" to a concentration camp. It is not one that readers are likely to think about, but it can open up some great discussions. The boys' friendship is the crux of the story. Bruno's choice to choose fear over friendship is sure to provoke questions of "what would you do?" Did his later choice (no spoiler) make up for that? Should Shmuel forgiven him?

The Exclusively Books blog has some excellent questions that focus on the emotional journey of the characters and readers, too.

Reading Level:
Recommended Age To Read By Yourself:
15 and Up
Recommended Age To Read Together:
14 and Up
Age of child:
Teen STAR Review Team, Be the Star You Are!™ . Reviewer age: 16
Purchase Recommendation:
Borrow, at least. The book is exceptional and powerful.

Title The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
Author John Boyne
Publisher David Fickling Books © 2007 (Reprint Edition)
ISBN 9780385751063
Material Paperback
Cost $7.99
Genres Friendship, Historical Fiction, History - 1940s & 1950s, War, Social Issues
be the star you are Cybils

More Reviews

Here are some other books we have reviewed that you may like!


Leon Leyson
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Imprint Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing © 2013
be the star you are Cybils

Similar Books

Check out these similar books on amazon


Author Elie Weisel
Publisher Hill and Wang © 2006
ISBN 9780374500016


Author Markus Zusak
Publisher Knopf Books for Young Readers, Imprint Knopf Doubleday © 2007 (Reprint Edition)
ISBN 9780375842207


Author John Boyne, Oliver Jeffers
Publisher Square Fish Books, Imprint Macmillan Children's Publishing Group © 2015 (Reprint Edition)
ISBN 9781250062864


Author John Boyne
Publisher Square Fish Books, Imprint Macmillan Children's Publishing Group © 2017 (Reprint Edition)
ISBN 9781250115058