We see through his eyes as his family is moved (because of his fathers job he works for The Fury) from their comfy home in Berlin to a place Bruno knows only as Out With in Poland. This, you see, is a view of Nazi Germany unlike any other. Bruno is a truly innocent child who has no clue that the hundreds (or perhaps thousands) of people he can see from his new bedroom window are Jewish prisoners. He wonders why they could possibly be there but has no inkling that his father (who he idolizes, in many ways) controls their fate.
Bruno secretly befriends Shmuel, a young boy in the camp. He keeps his new friendship secret because even though he doesnt understand what is going on, he somehow knows that the adults in his life would not approve. Bruno wanders down the fence line separating his house from the concentration camp every day to chat with Shmuel and give him food and to trade secrets.
I wont tell you the end, though you can surely guess that it might be a tragic one&after all, this is a story about the Holocaust. The story is almost completely told through the filter of Brunos inexperience, giving it an almost fairy tale feel. The reader is required to suspend disbelief almost completely and it is worthwhile to do so (if you dwell too long on thoughts of how in the world could even a self-absorbed 9 year-old boy completely miss that theres a war going on? youll miss out on the story).
The age range to recommend this book for is rather hard&on the one hand, it is a story of a 9-year-old and the language is certainly simple enough for someone that age to read. But the true weight of the story is far greater, even if the violence in it is primarily off-stage. It is listed simply as young adult, which can mean many things. I suppose I would have to recommend it is as 14 and up, though there are those that would argue with me on either side of the scale.
This is a story that will stay with you and haunt you a bit. And well it should, given the subject. Definitely a book to add to the already burgeoning canon of Holocaust literature; it is different enough to bring something new to the study of this horrible subject. I can see that this would be a good book for classroom use and I imagine many teachers have already discovered it.