A young German boy befriends a Jewish boy his age, who is in a concentration camp. Bruno arrives home to find the family maid packing his clothes into crates. He is livid. These are his things! He respectfully asks Maria to stop touching his belongings. His mother comes into his room and tells Bruno she needs to talk with him. He is scared that he has done something that is getting hims sent away.
His mother explains that the whole family is moving, his father has a new job. Young Bruno isn't sure what his father does at work. He knows important people come to the house in uniforms to discuss business but he has never been allowed to stay underfoot to hear what they talk about.
The family moves to a much smaller house where things are not shiny and new. Bruno tries to get information from his sister. Gretel is twelve-years-old and prone to being bossy. Neither are happy about the abrupt move that has taken them away from everything familiar. Bruno misses his buddies intensely.
He finally approaches his father for answers. He learns they won't be returning to Berlin. At Out-With is their new home and the decision is final. Bruno tells his father in as much language as a nine-year-old can muster that he must not have been terribly good at his job if they made him move. Carefully,his father explains that every time he sees a soldier at the new house he is to say “Heil Hitler.”
Bruno gains a slightly better understanding from Maria who had been his families maid since he was a toddler. She tries explaining to the boy that his father was doing what was best for the family. This is the first time that Bruno has looked at Maria as a person, one who might have ideas outside of being a maid.
Bruno's mother pitches a fit when she returns home and finds Pablo sitting with her son. He's cleaned and dressed a scrape Bruno received when a tire swing he was building caught him on the leg. She asks Bruno tell his father that she cleaned the wound should he inquire. Bruno figures his mother is tripping again, she didn't dress the wound but wants to make herself look good.
Bruno goes exploring outside of his yard and comes upon a fence with a little boy on the other side. A sad small boy, with bulging eyes who seemed skinnier than any kid Bruno had ever seen. Shamuel and Bruno strike up a conversation and Bruno tells the boy he walked across the street from his house. Shamuel has on stripped pajamas and Bruno doesn't understand the meaning. They talk some more and discover they have the same birthday and were born the same year. April 15, 1934.
Shamuel tells Bruno how the soldiers came and tore up his families home in Poland. He spoke in whispers about being forced to live with two other families in one room. Eleven people. Bruno couldn't imagine.
A year after moving to Out-With Brunno's grandmother dies in Berlin. The family goes back for two days to attend her funeral. Brunno had really missed her and now she was gone.
Bruno asks Gretel about the fence and why they weren't allowed to play with the kids on the other side. She laughs telling him that it is because they are Jews. He can't understand why that would separate people. He likes Shamuel and has been talking with him everyday for a year. He doesn't even miss his Berlin buddies like he used to.
His mother has seen enough horrors and tells his father that she and the children are going back to Berlin. Brunno goes to tell Shamuel that he'll be leaving in two days. Brunno still wants to see the other side of the fence before he leaves perhaps never to return. Home is back in Berlin. Shamuel tells him that when he comes the next day, he'll have a pair of stripped pajamas for him. That way the guards won't think anything about it.
The next day Brunno shows up as promised and Shamuel hands him the pajamas under the wire fence and holds it up so Brunno can come inside. The guards start an order to march and Brunno and Shumel hold hands as they are pushed forward by the guards. The heat is hot on Brunno's face and body and he's never seen or heard from again.
His family grieves over the missing boy. His father goes back to the exact spot boy's clothing was found. He plays with the fence and sees how a small boy could crawl under. He knows what has happened to his son. The same people he worked for killed his boy. He's a dead man walking with the knowledge and when the soldiers come for him he goes willingly.
Best part of story, including ending:
I liked that Bruno's father felt the hurt that he put others through everyday.
Best scene in story:
The best scene was when Bruno's mother said she was leaving, she was over the abuse people were suffering at her husband's hands.
Opinion about the main character:
I liked Bruno for showing more heart and courage than his dad.