The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, by John Boyne

boyinthestripedpajamas_johnboyneTo Bruno, Out-With was not a good place. That was where his family moved, away from their perfect life in Berlin. It was all because of Father. Father soon got a pressed uniform and the title of Commandant, which Bruno’s grandmother despised. And then the Fury came to visit, and right after, they moved from Berlin to Out-With. Gretel, Bruno’s older sister who was a “Hopeless Case,” later said it wasn’t pronounced “Out-With” and the man people saluted wasn’t called the “Fury,” but Bruno knew he was correct nonetheless.

Bruno hated his new life at Out-With, being removed from his friends and confined to the general vicinity of the house. He had no friends here, since Gretel was too focused on her dolls and Lieutenant Kotler to pay Bruno any mind. Plus, the house was no longer a five-story structure like the house in Berlin had been. And soon, Mother and Father made Gretel and Bruno attend lessons under Herr Liszt, but they had to learn history, not art and poetry like Bruno wanted.

Bruno, however, began to learn other secrets about his new life, about Maria the maid, Pavel the server, about the people on the other side of the fence that he could see from his bedroom window. The people who all wore the same striped pajamas every day and who were never invited into his house, though the soldiers were somehow invited to the other side of the fence.

This novel was a poignant tale of the Holocaust. Told from the perspective of a naive nine-year-old, the whole situation was simplified to the greatest degree, which amplified the story in my opinion. This book has been on my “to-read” list for years now, and I am fortunate I finally got a chance to read it. In reality, it is a simple read, but the themes presented deal with the moral issues of the Holocaust and thus make this novel suitable to at least a middle school audience. That being said, as a junior in high school, I still found this book touching and would definitely recommend it.

– Leila S., 11th grade

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

bookthief_markuszusakThe Book Thief is a truly amazing story by Markus Zusak about a German girl named Liesel Meminger who lived in Nazi Germany during the Holocaust. Liesel travels to Himmel Street in Molching to meet her new family, Hans and Rosa Hubermann, and her will-be best and reliable friend, Rudy Steiner. Liesel also came with a book, A Grave Digger’s Handbook, and Hans decides to teach her how to read and write. After her first book stealing, she feels encouraged to steal more books.

One thing I like about this book is that it is narrated not by person, but by Death. It shows how Death thinks and his thoughts of collecting souls after a person dies. Death talks about his job and all of the colors he sees while picking up souls. He also mentions that he is interested by Liesel. I think that Death also begins to feel remorseful about collecting so many souls during World War II.

What I also like about this book is that the author tells this story in a straight-forward style. I believe it offers true thoughts of the Führer, aka Hitler, from those who didn’t really support him. This also shows the life of a Jew trying to stay alive and hide from the soldiers. There are some sad parts but there are heart-warming moments as well. I recommend this book for 12 years and older. If you choose to read this terrific book, I hope you will greatly enjoy it.

-Samantha S.

The Book Thief is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library, Overdrive, and Axis360.