The Boy In the Striped Pyjamas, John Boyne

This is the book that made me really quite cross last year. This book was chosen by Year 6 teachers for the children to read while they learnt about World War Two. I’m not sure that it’s an appropriate book for 10 year olds to read (without a heck of a lot of context at least), but what made me angry was that, as usual, they read it together in class but didn’t finish it. Some parents had rushed to explain the content to their children, since the Holocaust is not something that many 10 year olds understand, only to find that the class didn’t reach the end anyway. They just stopped. As seems to happen time and time again in our junior school.

The book appeared again last year, being read in English in the first term of year 7 for my now 11 year old. Again I worried as I know it was a hard read for my eldest from an emotional perspective, but at least this time they finished the book.

I thought it best that I read it myself – I knew the story and had seen the film but wanted to really understand why this book keeps appearing on the curriculum.

Now I do understand. It’s important, it’s challenging and it explains the truth of the Holocaust in a way only a brilliant children’s author can. Bruno is a German child, the son of a Nazi officer. He meets a friend in Shmuel, a Jewish boy on the other side of the fence. It makes you think about family, friendships and living different lives. It presents the cruelty of the camp and it breaks your heart, because how could it do anything else.

It’s an important book, but I still think 10 is too young to truly understand it. To not finish it is just plain wrong. I’m in agreement with Common Sense Media – I think 12 is more appropriate minimum age to discover this book, and we will leave the film for a good while yet. I’d recommend this but support your child while they read this and be aware you may not have any answers to their questions.


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