From School Library Journal
Grade 9 Up–John Boyne's novel (David Fickling books, 2006) is a harrowing Holocaust story with an excruciating ending. It is told through the eyes of nine-year-old Bruno, whose family moves from Berlin after his father gets a promotion to Commandant. When the family arrives at their new home, Bruno is disheartened. The new place, which the boy calls Out-With, is desolate, with a large camp on the other side of a big fence, behind which all of the people, except the soldiers, wear gray-striped pajamas. After starting classes with a tutor, who advocates history over art, Bruno explores his new surroundings and meets Shmuel who is living in the fenced-in area. Bruno never quite grasps why his new friend is behind the fence, but he knows that he should keep quiet about their visits. Only mature listeners with knowledge of World War II and Hitler's final solution will be able to interpret what the author unveils slowly (there is no mention of a war going on or the ability to get news from the radio or newspapers). Still, the novel will certainly augment the study of this period in history. There is the added bonus of an interview with the author and his editor at the end of the recording. With the eager urgency and excitement of the young protagonist, Michael Maloney reads with a British accent, using various voices for the many characters. Sometimes he drops the ends of words, which can be distracting. Haunting music between chapters adds to the suspense. A unique addition to Holocaust literature.–Jo-Ann Carhart, East Islip Public Library, NY
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Gr. 7-10. Some of the most thought-provoking Holocaust books are about bystanders, including those who say they did not know what was happening. This first novel tells the bystander story from the viewpoint of an innocent child. Bruno is nine when his family moves from their luxurious Berlin home to the country, where "the Fury" has appointed Bruno's father commandant. Lost and lonely, the child hates the upheaval, while his stern but kind father celebrates his success because he has learned to follow orders. Bruno can see a concentration camp in the distance, but he has no idea what is going on, even when he eventually meets and makes friends with Shmuel, a boy from Cracow, who lives on the other side of the camp fence. The boys meet every day. They even discover that they have the same birthday. It's all part of a poignant construct: Shmuel is Bruno's alternative self, and as the story builds to a horrifying climax, the innocent's experience brings home the unimaginable horror. Pair this with Anne Frank's classic diary and Anita Lobel's No Pretty Pictures: A Child of War
(1998). Hazel RochmanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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