Platypuses like to read. And we decided that we will compile a list of the best of children’s and YA books we have read each month, in case something sounds good to you. You can also tell us about children’s and YA books that you have been reading.
Read this book if you like: Funny stories about unusual families
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
Author: John Boyne
About the book: This is such a classic now that one hesitates to say anything about it. Bruno’s father sent as the commandant to a place which Bruno only knows as Out-with. Lonely and bored in this strangely isolated place, Bruno goes exploring and finds an unlikely friend across a barbed wire fence. Bruno and his new friend Shmuel meet every day and become friends. Then one day, Shmuel’s father goes missing and Bruno decides to help. He goes across the fence, wearing a pair of striped pyjamas that Shmuel has found …
The book is a comment on the ‘wilful ignorance’, not just of the German peoplebut the entire world. People have criticized the naivete of Bruno. How could he not know what was going on? The concentration camps went on for years, argues John Boyne, but the world did not know what was going on. So why would a little boy, who sees his father as a hero, imagine the horrors that are taking place under his father’s command?
My one quibble with the book is that it presupposes a lot of knowledge from the reader. Without understanding the context of the concentration camps in the Third Reich, the book would be incomprehensible.
Publisher: Vintage Books
Read this book if you like: Books about the Third Reich and Hitler, books about friendship
The Boy at the Top of the Mountain
Author: John Boyne
About the book: This is John Boyne’s second book set in the time of the Third Reich and he says he could not have written it without first having written The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.
Pierrot, a boy with a French mother and a German father, is orphaned. With nowhere else to go, he is sent to his aunt, who is the housekeeper at a house on the mountain. This is Hitler’s house, Berghoff, in the Austrian Alps. Pierrot is made to change his name to Pieter and told to never mention his French mother or his Jewish best friend in front of Hitler. Over the years, Hitler takes a shine to the boy. Heady with the attention of the Fuhrer and the power that comes from it, Pierrot changes from a caring, considerate boy into a terrible person, who does some unforgivable things.
When the war is over and Hitler is gone, Pierrot has nowhere to go. That’s when a German girl he works with tells him not to ever pretend he didn’t know about the horrors that were initiated from the house on the mountain. He knew it all, and that made him complicit.
The book carries forward the idea of wilful ignorance and the complicity of knowledge. It’s remarkable for having a protagonist who is not just dislikeable but truly a horrible person. The slow corruption of the gentle little boy by power and proximity to it is wonderfully done.
Both the books should be required reading for children everywhere, especially in some states in India, which have experimented with textbooks exhorting Hitler as a great leader.
Publisher: Corgi Books
Read this book if you like: Books about the Third Reich and Hitler, books with negative protagonists.