The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, by John Boyne, disturbed me on some level. Not because of the topic, it is an interesting premise with the potential of being effectively used in a classroom. Not because it was not well written; it was. But I feel it's classification as a fable, though it did indeed have a moral, is misleading. This is not a fable, especially in the traditional sense. A look at the book.
The cover art is appropriate and depicts only blue and gray stripes of a prison uniform, or striped pajamas. Despite the title and cover, this is not a book to be read unsupervised by fourth and fifth graders. Case in point, the back cover:
This is a book about Auschwitz told by a young boy named Bruno whose father is in charge of the prison camp. Bruno and his family are abruptly moved from their comfortable home in Berlin to "Out-with" because his father has been given an important job by "the Fury." Depicted as a normal nine-year-old who is part of a prosperous family, Bruno is spoiled and slightly arrogant in his various assumptions concerning his new home and the people who live behind the bars wearing only striped pajamas. One afternoon Bruno meets Shmuel on the other side of the fence. Lonely for a friend, Bruno learns they share a birthday. This leads to daily meetings beside the fence and the boys become friends, after a fashion. Through their friendship, we learn about Shmuel's life inside "Out-with" as seen by a nine-year old. Neither boy fully understands the camp, which is understandable since adults to this day do not understand, but readers are able to sense the underlying evil. The story ends in an appropriately horrifying manner that will undoubtedly lead to questions.
"The story of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is very difficult to describe. Usually we give some clues about the book on the jacket, but in this case we think it is important that you start to read without knowing what it is about."
"If you do start to read this book, you will go on a journey with a nine-year-old boy called Bruno. (Though this isn't a book for nine-year olds). And sooner or later you will arrive with Bruno at a fence. Fences like this exist all over the world. We hope you never have to encounter such a fence."