2010-2011 One Book, One School Selection
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About the Author
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From the Author:
I started writing at a very young age, not long after
I first started reading and discovered the joys of getting lost in
someone else’s world. When I was a child, I wrote hundreds of stories
and bound them up together like books, writing my name on the spine and
putting them on the bookshelves in my bedroom. I don’t have any of
those stories any more. but I wish I did. Maybe I could still get some
ideas from them.
At the age of 10, I was in hospital for a week for an operation and my mother gave me a copy of The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis to read. By the time I was recovered I’d read all seven of the Narnia books and fell in love with the idea of adventure stories, particularly ones that included children like me who were in peril and had to use their wits and ingenuity to get out of trouble.
The next book I remember that had a big effect on me was The Silver Sword by Ian Serailler. This tale of four children fleeing Poland during World War II was perhaps the most important book of my childhood, combining my love of heroic adventure stories with my growing interest in history. It forced me to think about what children my own age had gone through during the war and question whether I would have been as brave and strong as they were. Twenty years later it influenced my writing of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas as I tried to tell a story about this terrible time in human history with as much integrity and compassion as Serailler had.
When I was a young teenager, I discovered Charles Dickens and his novels have had the greatest effect on me as both a reader and writer. I particularly loved the orphan novels–David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby–books that began with a young boy left alone in the world, with no one or nothing to rely on other than his own resourcefulness. Because so many of Dickens’ novels were originally serialised in magazines, Dickens had a tremendous talent for finishing each chapter with a cliff-hanger, forcing me to leave the light on just a little longer to find out what happened next . . . and next . . . and next.
My life has always been filled with books and I never wanted to be anything but a writer. One of the great thrills over the last year of my life since publishing The Boy in the Striped Pajamas in the U.K. has been visiting schools and classrooms, talking to young children about the issues raised in the novel, but also discussing reading and writing in general. To my delight there’s a lot of young writers out there with great imaginations and stories to tell. I’ll be looking forward to their own books 20 years from now.
(From the publisher - this and more information is available at http://www.litlovers.com/guide_boy_in_striped_pajamas.html#author.)
More information on the Holocaust
Check out some of these websites for an in-depth look at the history of the Holocaust.
Questions to think about
1. Discuss the relationship between Bruno and Gretel. Why does Bruno seem younger than nine? In a traditional fable, characters are usually one-sided. How might Bruno and Gretel be considered one-dimensional?
2. At age 12, Gretel is the proper age for membership in the League of Young Girls, a branch of Hitler's Youth Organization. Why do you think she is not a member, especially since her father is a high-ranking officer in Hitler's army?
3. What is it about the house at Out-With that makes Bruno feel "cold and unsafe"? How is this feeling perpetuated as he encounters people like Pavel, Maria, Lt. Kotler, and Shmuel?
4. Describe his reaction when he first sees the people in the striped pajamas. What does Gretel mean when she says, "Something about the way [Bruno] was watching made her feel suddenly nervous"? (p. 28) How does this statement foreshadow Bruno's ultimate demise?
5. Bruno asks his father about the people outside their house at Auschwitz.His father answers, "They're not people at all Bruno." (p. 53) Discuss the horror of this attitude. How does his father's statement make Bruno more curious about Out-With?
6. Explain what Bruno's mother means when she says, "We don't have the luxury of thinking." (p. 13) Identify scenes from the novel that Bruno's mother isn't happy about their life at Out-With. Debate whether she is unhappy being away from Berlin, or whether she is angry about her husband's position. How does Bruno's grandmother react to her son's military role?
7. When Bruno and his family board the train for Auschwitz, he notices an over-crowded train headed in the same direction. How does he later make the connection between Shmuel and that train? How are both trains symbolic of each boy's final journey?
8. Bruno issues a protest about leaving Berlin. His father responds, "Do you think that I would have made such a success of my life if I hadn't learned when to argue and when to keep my mouth shut and follow orders?" (p. 49) What question might Bruno's father ask at the end of the novel?
9. A pun is most often seen as humorous. But, in this novel the narrator uses dark or solemn puns like Out-With and Fury to convey certain meanings. Bruno is simply mispronouncing the real words, but the author is clearly asking the reader to consider a double meaning to these words. Discuss the use of this wordplay as a literary device. What is the narrator trying to convey to the reader? How do these words further communicate the horror of the situation?
10. When Bruno dresses in the filthy striped pajamas, he remembers something his grandmother once said. "You wear the right outfit and you feel like the person you're pretending to be." (p, 205) How is this true for Bruno? What about his father? What does this statement contribute to the overall meaning of the story?
11. Discuss the moral or message of the novel. What new insights and understandings does John Boyne want the reader to gain from reading this story?
12. Discuss the differences in a fable, an allegory, and a proverb. How might this story fit into each genre?
(Questions issued by publisher - these questions and additional information is available at http://www.litlovers.com/guide_boy_in_striped_pajamas.html.)
Learn even MORE about the Holocaust!
Below are some more helpful resources available through the library.
Check them out!
(Please see Mrs. Thomas or Mrs. Lane for help with database passwords - if you are an incoming freshman and want to access these resources before school begins, please email Mrs. Thomas at email@example.com)