A wire fence stands between Bruno and Shmuel’s friendship at Auschwitz, and tragedy beckons when Bruno’s naivety and his distance from his family take him beyond the fence.
Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.
The informational text “Auschwitz” details the treatment and use of prisoners in the three main Auschwitz concentration camps.
Introduce this article to students before they begin reading, in order to provide background knowledge on the novel’s setting: the Auschwitz concentration camps in 1942. As students read the novel, ask them to discuss the people in power involved with the camps, such as Kotler and Father. Direct students to take notes on the conditions of the camp, as indicated by Shmuel.
In this famous retelling of an Indian parable dealing with perception and the subjective nature of truth, six blind men approach an elephant and come away with very different perspectives.
Have students read this poem, after reading Chapter 2, in order to provide an example of how different perspectives can lead to different interpretations. The reader is presented with different insights in this chapter: Bruno doesn’t want to leave his friends or familiar home, while Mother supports the family, and Maria is obedient. Ask students to consider the effect of the men’s different perspectives on the elephant in the poem, alongside Bruno and other house members’ different perspectives of their move from Berlin to the new house. Utilizing both texts, ask students to discuss how perspective can affect the telling of a story.
Ira Sher is a contemporary author who writes short fiction. In this story, a man in a vulnerable position asks a group of children for help.
Have students read this story after completing Chapter 3, to help them explore the idea of power that is presented through Bruno, his sister, and his mother. Ask students to discuss the decisions that characters in positions of power make in the novel and the short story. How can power lead to cruelty?
In Daniel Beaty’s poem “Knock Knock,” the speaker describes his relationship with his father and how he is impacted by his eventual absence.
Have students read this poem after completing Chapter 5, to help students move beyond a surface-level understanding of the relationship between Bruno and his father. While Bruno’s father is not imprisoned in the traditional sense, like the speaker’s father in the poem, he is very much distant from Bruno and there has been a change in their relationship. Ask students to compare the fathers in the poem and novel, as well as the relationships between the sons and their fathers.
In the fable “The House Dog and the Wolf,” a wolf must make the choice between comfort and freedom.
This fable should be introduced after students have read Chapter 10, to help students analyze why Bruno may be jealous of Shmuel without comprehending his living conditions. Ask students to consider how Bruno’s living conditions are similar to the wolf’s and Shmuel’s to the house dog’s. What do Bruno and Shmuel envy in one another’s situation?
In “The Stolen Party,” Liliana Heker tells the story of a girl who is invited to her friend’s party, whose family also employs her mother as their housekeeper.
Pair this short story with the text after students have read Chapter 14, when Bruno is beginning to see the differences between his standing and Shmuel’s. Ask students to discuss how people are treated differently in both texts. How does the point of view of each text affect the reader’s understanding of the situation? How are people treated differently based on class, age, gender, religion, etc.?
In “The Bear and the Two Travelers,” a traveler abandons his friend in the face of danger.
Introduce this short story after students have read Chapter 15, when Bruno betrays Shmuel, to explore the themes of betrayal and friendship. Ask students to consider how the themes of betrayal and friendship are developed in each text. What causes a friend to betray another? How do the betrayals affect the friendships?
In this well-known short story, Andersen tells the tale of a young girl stuck in the cold on New Year’s Eve while dreaming of warmth and family.
Introduce this short story to students after they have read Chapter 15, when Shmuel and Bruno are rounded up into the dark room, to explore the theme of death. Ask students to discuss the mood and tone that the authors create in both texts. Ask students to consider how death is presented to readers through the situations that Shmuel and the little match girl are in. Who might the little match girl’s grandmother represent for Shmuel?
In “Elie Wiesel’s Remarks at the Dedication of Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum,” acclaimed author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel discusses the museum’s ability to memorialize the victims of the Holocaust and his hopes for its impact on the future.
This speech can help students evaluate the conclusion of the novel when the author writes: “Of course all this happened a long time ago and nothing like that could ever happen again. Not in this day and age.” Ask students if they agree or disagree with the author’s statement. Ask students to brainstorm answers to Wiesel’s question “What should we do?” based on their reading of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.