The Devil's Arithmetic

The Devil's Arithmetic

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30th Anniversary edition with a new introduction from the author 

Hannah is tired of holiday gatherings−all her family ever talks about is the past. In fact, it seems to her that's what they do every Jewish holiday. But this year's Passover Seder will be different−Hannah will be mysteriously transported into the past . . . and only she knows the unspeakable horrors that await.

Winner of the National Jewish Book Award

"A triumphantly moving book." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781428167995
Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC
Publication date: 04/16/2002
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 1.50(h) x 5.00(d)
Age Range: 10 - 14 Years

About the Author

Born and raised in New York City, Jane Yolen now lives in Hatfield, Massachusetts. She attended Smith College and received her master's degree in education from the University of Massachusetts. The distinguished author of more than 170 books, Jane Yolen is a person of many talents. When she is not writing, Yolen composes songs, is a professional storyteller on the stage, and is the busy wife of a university professor, the mother of three grown children, and a grandmother.

Active in several organizations, Yolen has been on the Board of Directors of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, was president of the Science Fiction Writers of America from 1986 to 1988, is on the editorial board of several magazines, and was a founding member of the Western New England Storytellers Guild, the Western Massachusetts Illustrators Guild, and the Bay State Writers Guild. For twenty years, she ran a monthly writer's workshop for new children's book authors. In 1980, when Yolen was awarded an honorary Doctor of Law degree by Our Lady of the Elms College in Chicopee, Massachusetts, the citation recognized that "throughout her writing career she has remained true to her primary source of inspiration—folk culture." Folklore is the "perfect second skin," writes Yolen. "From under its hide, we can see all the shimmering, shadowy uncertainties of the world." Folklore, she believes, is the universal human language, a language that children instinctively feel in their hearts.

All of Yolen's stories and poems are somehow rooted in her sense of family and self. The Emperor and the Kite, which was a Caldecott Honor Book in 1983 for its intricate papercut illustrations by Ed Young, was based on Yolen's relationship with her late father, who was an international kite-flying champion. Owl Moon, winner of the 1988 Caldecott Medal for John Schoenherr's exquisite watercolors, was inspired by her husband's interest in birding.

Yolen's graceful rhythms and outrageous rhymes have been gathered in numerous collections. She has earned many awards over the years: the Regina Medal, the Kerlan Award, the World Fantasy Award, the Society of Children's Book Writers Award, the Mythopoetic Society's Aslan Award, the Christopher Medal, the Boy's Club Jr. Book Award, the Garden State Children's Book Award, the Daedalus Award, a number of Parents' Choice Magazine Awards, and many more. Her books and stories have been translated into Japanese, French, Spanish, Chinese, German, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Afrikaans, !Xhosa, Portuguese, and Braille.

With a versatility that has led her to be called "America's Hans Christian Andersen," Yolen, the child of two writers, is a gifted and natural storyteller. Perhaps the best explanation for her outstanding accomplishments comes from Jane Yolen herself: "I don't care whether the story is real or fantastical. I tell the story that needs to be told."

copyright © 2000 by Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved.

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Devil's Arithmetic 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 210 reviews.
JosephCopeli More than 1 year ago
Hannah is a young Jewish girl who is bored with the seemingly pointless traditions of her heritage and the ranting and raving of her Holocaust survivor relatives. During the Passover Seder, she is asked to open the door for Elijah the Prophet and finds herself transported to a small Polish village in the 1940's. Now known as Chaya, she is overwhelmed by the change in setting and wonders if her memories of a modern world are real or just a forgotten dream. At a wedding ceremony, the entire village is rounded up by Nazis and Hannah remembers the terrible things that are about to happen to the Jewish villagers. Despite her pleas and protests, history continues to unfold in the same way and the journey of the villagers and Hannah to a concentration camp is described in vivid detail. Hannah is forced to experience the harsh conditions and inhumane treatment that her older relatives had described to her a lifetime ago. At the novel's grim climax, Hannah finally understands the importance of sacrifice, and subsequently, of remembering the horrible events of the past. Although the subject matter is heavy, this is a great book for introducing young readers to the Holocaust. It is accurate in its details, seemingly derived from Primo Levi's Survival in Auschwitz (AKA, Is This a Man?) and other sources. Yolen's narrative structure is very well-suited toward drawing in readers who might not be interested in the subject. [Disclosure: This review also appears on, a site for review and discussion of creative works.]
McK_TMS More than 1 year ago
I read this book for my Children's Literature course and absolutely loved it. I had never read a book on the Holocaust before, so I thought this would be a great opportunity. Jane Yolen did a fabulous writing this book so creatively. I liked how she incorporated both the present and the past. This book gives you a sort of first hand experience of the Holocaust. The main character, Hannah, is a young girl who is tired of hearing about the Holocaust. She doesn't truly understand why it is so important to her family's history and she is tired of hearing her grandfather talk about it. I think this goes hand in hand with children in today's society. A lot of children do not see how significant the Holocaust was in history. That is why I believe this book would be an excellent addition to one's literature curriculum. Jane Yolen not only gives first hand accounts of the Holocaust within the book, but also filled the book Jewish heritage. Throughout the book there are Yiddish terms and names. These are of historical significance to the Jews. Overall, this book explores a very important historical event in a that would interest and benefit students. This book would introduce students to a new culture.
shoffmeier More than 1 year ago
Jane Yolen writes a wonderful book about the Holocaust and the experiences that a young girl went through in the concentration camps. Hannah, a thirteen year old girl acts rather spoiled at the beginning of the book when all her family can do is to remember their past lives in the concentrations camps. She complains she does not want to remember and wonders why she has to. Hannah then gets transported back in time to the year 1942 where she gets taken off to a concentration camp where she learns the cold hard reality of what her past family was trying to remember at Seder. She becomes more respectful towards those around her and their feelings because she knows how she felt then and that they felt the same. She returns to her old life where she realizes that her Aunt Eva was one of her friends in the camp and they talk about the past. I used this book in a book club where we were able to discuss the pros and cons about the book. We all agreed we liked it but that it is for older readers starting at age 12. This is because it can be graphic at some points and can be too much for young readers to handle. Yolen gives a good detailed description about the life of Hannah and those around her. In the back of the book Yolen also explains how the book relates to her family's history and what parts are fiction and nonfiction. I enjoyed this book and feel it is a must read in any class studying the Holocaust, a history buff, or a person who is not familiar with WWII.
PricelessReads More than 1 year ago
I ordered this book from Scholastic for my classroom. After reading it, I realize that it is more suited for Jr. High or High School students than 4th graders. Although I think that younger students benefit from learning about the Holocaust, I think books more like Number the Stars are more age appropriate for 9 and 10 year olds. being sent to a concentration camp. The story told has a magical element of time travel, that she had a hard time selling to me. However, the purpose and story is there.
Cougar_H More than 1 year ago
"Now, six million Jews will die in camps like this. Die! There, I've said the word. Does it make it more real? Or less? And how do I know six million will die? I'm not sure how, but I do." Typical Hannah, with her thirteen year old attitude, dreads going to her family's Passover Seder. To her, it seems like the same pointless routine every year, but what Hannah doesn't know is that it will be a Seder that she'll never forget. When Hannah symbolically opens the door to welcome the prophet Elijah, she is magically transported to 1942 in a little Polish village. Equipped with valuable knowledge of the Holocaust, she is captured by Nazis and put to the test of surviving in a concentration camp. To me, Hannah was a perfect main character for the book. She's the type that doesn't care for traditions, takes things for granted, and "tired of remembering." By putting her in 1942, I think it really changed her perspective of life and made her take that 180 degree turn. Imagine if you were put into a concentration camp when you were thirteen. Having to live through one of mankind's most devastating tragedies, experiencing the worst imaginable situation man can create, and survive. "Auschwitz was the worse of the camps, where in two and a half years two million Jews and two million Soviet prisoners of war, Polish political prisoners, gypsies, and European non-Jews were gassed." Would you fight for your survival or just give up? Author Jane Yolen made a strong point that the Holocaust should never be forgotten. She effectively wove her information into her book and like the Holocaust, I will never forget it.
WarriorsFan83 More than 1 year ago
I loved reading this book because it is a great way to learn about what happened during the holocaust without having to read something like a biography. If you are planning on seeing the movie they are basicly NOTHING alike. But it was a really good book and I really loved it!
hssix More than 1 year ago
I have found this to be a very good book for sixth grade. Not only does it teach about the Holocaust, but it teaches self-realization and growth as well. It has great symbolism. It is very well written.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
THE DEVIL'S ARITHMETIC by Jane Yolen is required reading at my school, as it is in many middle/junior high schools across the country. I've been meaning to read it for several years but never did, until my son read it this year as an eighth grader. He insisted I read it. How could I resist that?

Hannah is celebrating Passover Seder with her family. It's the same thing every year. Grandpa will get all worked up over old photos on TV, shaking his fist, screaming about the numbers on his arm, and Aunt Eva will calm him down as she always does, laying a hand on his arm, leading the same old Jewish prayers as Hannah mumbles along. But this year will be different. Hannah's brother, Aaron, will get to hide the afikoman, Hannah will get to taste real wine, and then she'll get to open the door to symbolically welcome in the prophet Elijah.

But when she opened that door, she had no idea just how different this year's celebration would be.

Instead of seeing the hallway in front of her as she expected, she sees a man coming her way, crossing a field. Confused, she turns back to her family and instead sees a strange woman, dressed even more strangely, kneading dough on a wooden table. Hannah's confusion grows as she hears herself referred to as Chaya, and discovers that these two people believe themselves to be her Aunt Gitl and Uncle Shmuel. More unbelievably, they talk about her parents' deaths, and that she herself had nearly died, sick for weeks.

Feeling like she's in a dream she can't wake up from, she finds herself pulled into wedding festivities, which includes walking to a nearby village for the celebration. There, her dream turns into a nightmare. Hannah is slowly disappearing as Chaya is loaded onto trucks with the other villagers. Then, later, they are prodded like cattle aboard boxed railroad cars with no ventilation, and they travel, standing, for four days and nights without food or bathrooms. What follows is days, weeks, maybe months, in a Jewish concentration camp.

Jane Yolen's telling of the Holocaust is chilling. She gathered information from survivors, those heroes who remember so that the atrocities of the past will never happen again. Ms. Yolen writes in her final pages to the reader, "That heroism - to resist being dehumanized, to simply outlive one's tormentors, to practice the quiet, everyday caring for one's equally tormented neighbors. To witness. To remember. These were the only victories of the camps."

This book is incredibly powerful. The way Ms. Yolen weaves the past and present together forces the reader to make personal connections. She makes the reader think and ask questions. How could society have allowed such a thing to happen? And, more importantly, how can we assure that it will never happen again? I truly hope THE DEVIL'S ARITHMETIC will remain required reading in schools. Each new generation must bear the weight of those lost souls upon their heart. They must believe that such devastating events can, and did, happen. Only in believing and remembering can we move forward to a better society.

Thank you, Ms. Yolen, for this riveting and thought-provoking book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is really good for readers who are involved or like to learn about this subject. I am only 14 yrs old and just finished this book last month. I am so involved in the holocaust and love to read about it. Thax
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
wyvernfriend on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Hannah, Jewish and living in New York, is bored with Passover, having to go to the Seder and taking part in the rituals, listening to the boring stories of her relatives while her friends enjoy Easter is just not something she wants to do. But she does. When she opens the door to let Elija in, she finds herself in Poland of the past. Poland during the war, Poland where the Jews are being rounded up like cattle to be brought to a concentration camp. While Hannah knows about whats going on she is dismissed.It's a touching story, a story people should read, a story touch your heart and remind you how horrible things were.
Camethyste on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent book! Thought-provoking examination of the life of a Jewish girl caught up in the Holocaust. This is a very interesting story that is difficult to put down.Hannah is tired of listening to her family's stories of the Holocaust and gains a new understanding of it all when she's taken back in time and becomes a girl living in that time.
MerryMary on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A modern girl who doesn't appreciate the sacrifices of the Holocaust finds herself transported to a small Polish village just before the Nazis come. As she experiences all the horrors of the trainride, the camp, and the misery all around her, she develops an empathy with these people she lacked as a spoiled modern girl. She finds her way back to her own time through a heroic sacrifice, and is startled by her own change of attitude and appreciation for her family members who survived.
kthomp25 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An excellent book, connecting today's perception of the past to the actual living of it. Hannah learns firsthand of the horrors her own family experienced. Short, explicit but not graphic.
fyrefly98 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Summary: Hannah is not looking forward to going to her family's Passover seder. Every year it's the same: her younger brother being annoying, food she doesn't much like, not much fun, and her Grandfather Will getting riled up about "the camps." But this year, the seder is very different, although not in a way that Hannah ever expected. When they get to the point of the Haggadah where Hannah goes to open the door for the prophet Ezekiel, what she finds is not the hallway of her grandparents' apartment building, but instead a field outside a small house in a Polish shtetl... and when she turns around, her family is gone, replaced with the small house and a woman who insists on calling her Chaya. Hannah is not sure whether this is a dream or reality, but as she learns more about where - and more specifically, when - she is, she begins to realize that they are all in terrible danger, since it's the year 1942, and they're in Nazi-occupied Poland. But what's the worse fate: not knowing about the atrocities committed at the concentration camps until its too late, or knowing, but being unable to do anything to change the future?Review: This is another one of those books that, had it been handed to me when I was ten or twelve, I would have absolutely loved it. (Although I would have been completely lost during the scenes at the seder - I didn't have any close Jewish friends when I was growing up, and the first seder I ever attended was only a few years ago.) However, as an adult, and particularly an adult who's read a fair share of WWII / concentration-camp-centric books, it didn't have quite the same impact. I'm probably pretty jaded, but there are enough WWII novels out there that a new one has to have a pretty unique take on the subject in order to really capture my interest. While the time-travel aspect of The Devil's Arithmetic wasn't something I'd seen done before, it was also not really played up enough to make it stand out - this book felt primarily pitched as a historical fiction novel, with the time travel as a plot device rather than the focus. That's not to say that it wasn't well done. I thought Yolen did a very nice job of depicting life both in the shtetl and in the camp; of presenting the horrors of the camps in an age-appropriate way, but without sugar-coating the details; and of balancing the darkness of the history with little pieces of light and life and love. It's a quick read, and one that I can definitely understand how it would stick with a person, and become a perennial favorite. Again, had my grade-school librarian handed me this at the same time as she handed me Lois Lowry's Number the Stars, I would have eaten it up... but at this point in my life, I just didn't feel like it had enough to say that I hadn't already heard. 3.5 out of 5 stars.Recommendation: Definitely recommended for the mid-grade readers in your life, particularly if they like historical fiction. For adults, it's a quick read, so worth picking up if you're interested in the time period.
wonderbook on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am so glad I finally got around to reading this classic. It is a very powerful simple story that would appeal to kids as they quickly get caught up in the story of Hannah who after a few glasses of watered wine at her family's Seder dinner opens the door to let Elijah in and finds herself in the midst of an old fashioned Jewish wedding. As the jubilant wedding party sings and dances though the forest, they come to a little town and synagogue to find the Nazis waiting for them. Hannah quickly realizes what year it is and that these are her family members in the past. She tries to warn them of the future genocide but they won't listen and they are all herded into trains and processed in a concentration camp. Here is where we learn about the devil's arithmetic, the numbers that replace names and the numerable ways to survive the unspeakable death that surrounds them daily. The story is told with humor and camaraderie that would appeal to kids. What a tangible and compassionate way to learn of surrender, survival, the decimation of the Jewish people, and the importance of remembering their story.
Cauterize on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A modern Jewish girl, Hannah, is exasperated that she has to spend Passover with her family and old grandparents and have to listen to their Holocaust stories. When it is her turn to open the door for the prophet, she finds she is transported back in time to WWII, and into the life of Chaya, a girl living in Poland... right before going to a concentration camp. I liked the story in general, but thought it varied from touching/terrifying to maudlin/overwrought. A good YA primer into the life of a child who was 'processed' through the camps.
jopearson56 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a nice little YA book, just my style with time travel presented in a very interesting way and good twists at the end. Probably would be a good book for a Jewish YA, who, like the protagonist in the book, has probably heard more than he or she ever cares to about the Holocaust and isn't seeing the importance or relevance to his or her life. Nicely done.
szierdt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An emotional, intensely moving portrayal of life in an interment camp during holocaust. Through the character Hannah, we see how she acquires deeper understanding of her families history and how their experience shaped who they are. The themes that rise out of this book include courage, loyalty and the importance for traditions and remembering the past as to keep it alive in us. I would have a letter to send home to parents encouraging them to read this book with thier kids along with suggested discussion prompts.
CatheOlson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
12-year-old Hannah is bored with her family's Jewish traditions and embarrassed by her Holocaust-survivor grandfather -- until she goes back in time to Poland in the 1940's and experiences first-hand an evacuation to a concentration camp. This is very well-done for kids 5/6th grade and older -- the book gets across the horribleness of what happened without being overly graphic.
JanaRose1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Hannah is tired, and even embarrassed by, her grandfather's ranting and ravings about the Nazi's and the holocaust. Unsympathetic, she does not want to attend family functions. However, during Passover Seder, when she is chosen to open the door to welcome the prophet Elijah, she is transported to a village in Poland. Shortly afterward, she is captured by the Nazi's and is taken to a death camp. At the camp she meets Rivka, a younger girl who teaches her how to survive. When Rivka is chosen to be sent to the gas chambers, Hannah takes her place. As the gas chamber door closes, she is transported back to her grandparent's apartment. I have mixed feelings about this book. I thought it was well-written, but I wonder how authentic Hannah's experience was. I know that every concentration camp was different, however, my understanding is that children under the age of 15 were immediately sent to the gas chambers. I'm sure there were exceptions, but to have a camp full of children, who merely hid in the garbage pile during inspections, seems more fiction that fact.
TFS93 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Hannah does not appreciate her life or her family or her heritage. After she time travels back to the Holocaust and "becomes" one of those in the concentration camps, she gains newfound respect and courage. Although this book was fiction, I felt the author did a good job researching what actually happened during the Holocaust. This book is very appealing and told in a different format than other books. The story is very good and the moral lesson is exceptional. This is my first by Yolen, I would love to read others.
jsb021 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An excellent book for intermediate aged children literature circles and/or class discussions. Hannah does not appreciate her family's Jewish heritage and does not feel the need to celebrate it. She takes a trip back in time as Chayah, a young Jewish girl in the time of WWII, a family member from down the line. This experience tells the story of her family that suffered in concentration camps, and Hannah is changed forever.
dccab73 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"The Devil's Arithmetic" is absolutely a fantastic book that is a must read for those interested in the Holocaust. The book is about a young girl named Hannah, who is thrown back in time of the Holocaust. Hannah or Chaya as she is known in the past, and her family are rounded up and sent to a concentration camp. The book details the trip on the cattle cars all the way through to the actual camp and the new brutal and cruel life that greets them there. Very powerful, thought provoking, and touching!!! Although fictional, the life that Chaya and her family and friends endure is just unimaginable and based on true events in history. Jane Yolen did an exquisite job!!!!! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!
lmaddux on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Good book have a conversation w/ a student if they read it . then ask them what they could change if they were able to. good book to have a conversation about. God did not intend for His people to have wars and be cruel to one another