Children’s Books by John Boyne
John Boyne is a writer of both novels for adults and children. His books have won many awards and accolades. He studied English Literature at Trinity College in Dublin and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia.
His works often use a youthful narrator to describe major world historical events. This is exemplified by his best-known novel, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, which describes the Holocaust.
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
Born in 1971, Irish writer John Boyne is the bestselling author of novels and short stories. His work often features historical elements, and his characters contend with real-seeming problems. From 16th century Paris to Depression-era Hollywood, ancient Palestine to World War II-ravaged Europe, his stories span space and time.
Boyne’s 2006 novel traces the fictional story of nine-year-old Bruno and his friendship with Shmuel, a prisoner at Auschwitz. The book was a worldwide success, and a 2008 film adaptation directed by Mark Herman was released.
Although some critics have noted that the story is not accurate to the reality of the Holocaust, it is nonetheless a compelling and touching tale. Boyne’s use of Bruno as a character is clever, and his depiction of the boy’s naive egocentricity and his innate concept of fairness and familial loyalty serves as a reminder that children are often more discerning than adults. Moreover, the boy’s relationship with Shmuel is rendered with elegant storytelling that conveys emotional impact.
Noah Barleywater Runs Away
Noah Barleywater Runs Away is the follow-up to The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and one of many children’s novels that Boyne has written. It tells the story of a young boy who runs away from home and encounters a series of odd villages and characters including a tree that talks, a newspaper that prints the news before it happens, and a toymaker who is a modern-day version of Geppetto.
Although this book sounds quite different from The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, the two novels share a similar structure. Both novels use a child-narrator to describe difficult adult issues and they both have a fair amount of fantasy and magic.
While the novel is a bit of a modern-day Pinocchio knockoff, it has its own unique twists. It’s a charming and poignant book that would amuse Signore Collodi and delight today’s readers. It also tackles themes of guilt, shame, and betrayal. The climax of the book is heartwarming and satisfying.
The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket
The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket is a quirky tale of a boy who defies gravity. It has the feel of something Roald Dahl might have written and there are a number of winks and nods to the author throughout the book.
The premise of the story is not only whimsical but thought-provoking. It could be applied to many different situations in which a child doesn’t conform to the wishes of their parent. While the specific situation in this book revolves around a boy who floats, it could easily apply to a child with an illness, a desire to follow their dreams or anyone who doesn’t fit into society’s idea of normal.
Children will love the quirky illustrations by Oliver Jeffers and the fanciful narrative. Adults will likely be impressed by the author’s ability to craft such a witty and clever story. But the heavy-handed emphasis on the message will tire some readers.
All the Broken Places
The Irish author of fourteen novels for adults and children, Boyne is perhaps best known for 2006’s bestselling Holocaust novel The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. The book was a young adult novel that centered on a relationship between the son of an Auschwitz concentration camp commander and a Jewish prisoner. The book has been widely praised for its ability to explore guilt, complicity and seemingly inescapable cycles of grief.
The book’s sequel, All the Broken Places, was published late last year and centers on Gretel, Bruno’s older sister. In the book, Gretel tries to lead a peaceful life in London, never discussing her past and her role as the daughter of an extermination camp commander. However, when a new family moves into the apartment building where she lives, she is forced to confront the ghosts of her past. In the end, she must choose between preserving her secrets or saving a young child from a terrible fate.