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The Devil's Arithmetic

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Overview

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

Hannah dreads going to her family's Passover Seder—she's tired of hearing her relatives talk about the past. But when she opens the front door to symbolically welcome the prophet Elijah, she's transported to a Polish village in the year 1942. Why is she there, and who is this "Chaya" that everyone seems to think she is? Just as she begins to unravel the mystery, Nazi soldiers come to take everyone in the ...

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Overview

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

Hannah dreads going to her family's Passover Seder—she's tired of hearing her relatives talk about the past. But when she opens the front door to symbolically welcome the prophet Elijah, she's transported to a Polish village in the year 1942. Why is she there, and who is this "Chaya" that everyone seems to think she is? Just as she begins to unravel the mystery, Nazi soldiers come to take everyone in the village away. And only Hannah knows the unspeakable horrors that await. A critically acclaimed novel from multi-award-winning author Jane Yolen. 

"[Yolen] adds much to understanding the effects of the Holocaust, which will reverberate throughout history, today and tomorrow." —SLJ, starred review

"Readers will come away with a sense of tragic history that both disturbs and compels." —Booklist

Winner of the National Jewish Book Award
An American Bookseller "Pick of the Lists"

Hannah resents the traditions of her Jewish heritage until time travel places her in the middle of a small Jewish village in Nazi-occupied Poland.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The Holocaust was so monstrous a crime that the mind resists belief and the story must be made new for each individual. Yolen's book is about remembering. During a Passover Seder, 12-year-old Hannah finds herself transported from America in 1988 to Poland in 1942, where she assumes the life of young Chaya. Within days the Nazis take Chaya and her neighbors off to a concentration camp, mere components in the death factory. As days pass, Hannah's own memory of her past, and the prisoners' future, fades until she is Chaya completely. Chaya/Hannah's final sacrifice, and the return of memory, is her victory over the horror. The book's simplicity is its strength; no comment is needed because the facts speak for themselves. This brave and powerful book has much it can teach a young audience. Ages 10-14. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Betty Hicks
Originally published in 1988, this award-winning novel about the Holocaust continues to have significance and appeal. Twelve-year-old Hannah is weary of observing Jewish holidays because she's "tired of remembering." During the Passover Seder, she finds herself mysteriously transported back to Nazi-occupied Poland in 1942. Her memories of 1990's America gradually fade, replaced by the horrors of her life in a concentration camp. Yolen depicts the harsh realities honestly, but compassionately, in this unforgettable story about survival, friendship, and remembering. Today's readers, increasingly dealing with issues of violence and prejudice, will especially value the learned skills Hannah utilizes to live with day to day hardship. This story does more than just remember the victims; it honors the survivors, and reminds that even in the midst of unspeakable sorrow, "the swallows still sing around the smokestacks." 1990 (orig.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-8 In this novel, Yolen attempts to answer those who question why the Holocaust should be remembered. Hannah, 12, is tired of remembering, and is embarrassed by her grandfather, who rants and raves at the mention of the Nazis. Her mother's explanations of how her grandparents and great-aunt lost all family and friends during that time have little effect. Then, during a Passover Seder, Hannah is chosen to open the door to welcome the prophet Elijah. As she does so, she is transported to a village in Poland in the 1940s, where everyone thinks that she is Chaya, who has just recovered from a serious illness. She is captured by the Nazis and taken to a death camp, where she is befriended by a young girl named Rivka, who teaches her how to fight the dehumanizing processes of the camp and hold onto her identity. When at last their luck runs out and Rivka is chosen, Hannah/Chaya, in an almost impulsive act of self-sacrifice, goes in her stead. As the door to the gas chamber closes behind her, she is returned to the door of her grandparents' apartment, waiting for Elijah. Through Hannah, with her memories of the present and the past, Yolen does a fine job of illustrating the importance of remembering. She adds much to children's understanding of the effects of the Holocaust, which will reverberate throughout history, today and tomorrow. Susan M. Harding, Mesquite Public Library, Tex.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140345353
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication date: 10/28/1990
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 176
  • Sales rank: 148,524
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Lexile: 730L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.04 (w) x 7.72 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Jane Yolen

Jane Yolen is the author of more than three hundred books, including Owl MoonThe Devil’s Arithmetic, and How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?. Her books and stories have won the Caldecott Medal, National Jewish Book Award and numerous awards and accolades. She splits her time between Massachusetts and St. Andrews, Scotland.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 174 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(115)

4 Star

(43)

3 Star

(8)

2 Star

(2)

1 Star

(6)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 174 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 5, 2010

    Excellent introduction to the Holocaust for young readers

    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 FingerFlow.com, a site for review and discussion of creative works.]

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 10, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    from a teacher's view

    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.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 4, 2011

    Fabulous Book to Read in the Classroom!!!

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2010

    Enjoyable book!

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 22, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Great Lesson

    This was a good short read for 5th grade and up. It's a good story to remind us all of our heritage and where we came from. But for Hannah, it's a life long rememberence not only for her, but for all of us in the world to remember the Holocaust. The book give moderate details of what a small portion of a concentration camp was like.

    This was more of a lesson for Hannah to realize why remembering was so important for her family and the Jewish people. In the end she understood.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    The Devil's Arithmetic

    "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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 15, 2009

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    I Also Recommend:

    I loved it!

    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!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 2, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Devil's Arithmetic

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 27, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Cana Rensberger for TeensReadToo.com

    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? <BR/><BR/>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. <BR/><BR/>But when she opened that door, she had no idea just how different this year's celebration would be. <BR/><BR/>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. <BR/><BR/>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. <BR/><BR/>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." <BR/><BR/>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. <BR/><BR/>Thank you, Ms. Yolen, for this riveting and thought-provoking book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 23, 2014

    Slow, inconsistent, but an entertaining read. I found that The D

    Slow, inconsistent, but an entertaining read.
    I found that The Devil's Arithmetic shifted from being a children's novel to a brutal retelling of the Holocaust, as if it couldn't make up its mind. Also, towards the middle of the book, it doesn't just drag, it STOPS. And then, Hannah's time in the concentration camp feels rushed, and it's over before you know it. Still, I could see that for younger readers it could be entertaining (aside from the dreadfully slow sequences), so I can say that it isn't bad, it'just really, REALLY okay.

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  • Posted May 5, 2014

    Not as good as I was hoping and not as good as people made it ou

    Not as good as I was hoping and not as good as people made it out to be. I have read much better holocaust stories, fact and fiction. I actually liked the ending of the movie better.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2014

    The Devil¿s Arithmetic is one of the best novel¿s I have ever re

    The Devil’s Arithmetic is one of the best novel’s I have ever read. In the beginning there is this girl named Hannah who is Jewish. Hannah goes to her Grandpa Will and Grandma Belle’s house for the Jewish holiday of Passover, which she does not want to go to. On the drive over, her little brother Aaron claims he doesn’t feel good. He is worried about reciting a religious text called the “Haggadah.” When they arrive at the house, her Aunt Rose kisses her and says that she has grown.

    The main character, Hannah, is not in touch with her Jewish religion, and one day she is celebrating a Jewish holiday in which she has to open the front door (as tradition calls for), so she opens it. And then she goes back in time to Nazi Germany during the Holocaust. Hannah’s name was not Hannah anymore, it was Chaya. This is the Jewish name for Hannah. Chaya makes new friends with some girls and they are at a wedding. Then the Nazis came and said that they needed to relocate. But they end up going to the concentration camps. Life is hard at the camps and the Chaya tells them stories to the people around her and she begins to forget more and more about her life. In the end, she saves her friend by going into the gas chamber for her and as she walks through the door she comes back to present time. She then realizes that how things were back then and also understands her Aunts story.

    I would highly recommend this book for adults and teenagers only. It has details that I would not allow a young child under the age of 13 to read. “There is no doubt that this is probably the greatest and most horrible single crime ever committed in the whole history of the world.”

    If you are looking for a very interesting novel this would be the one to read. I personally love this book! I have watched the movie on this, and it is nothing compared to the book.



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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2014

    The Devil¿s Arithmetic is one of the best novel¿s I have ever r

    The Devil’s Arithmetic is one of the best novel’s I have ever read. In the beginning this girl named Hannah who is Jewish. Hannah goes to her Grandpa Will and Grandma Belle’s house for the Jewish holiday of Passover, which she does not want to go to. On the drive over her little brother Aaron calms he doesn’t feel good, he is worried about reciting a religious text called the “Haggadah.” When they arrive at the house her Aunt Rose kisses her and says that she has grown.

    The main character, Hannah is not in touch with her Jewish religion and one day she is celebrating a Jewish holiday in which she has to open the front door (as tradition calls for) so she opens it. And then she goes back in time to Nazi Germany during the holocausts. Hannah’s name was not Hannah anymore, it was Chaya. This is the Jewish name for Hannah. Chaya makes new friends with some girls and they are at a wedding. Then the Nazis came and said that they needed to relocate. But they end up going to the concentration camps. Life is hard at the camps and the Chaya tells them stories to the people around her and she begins to forget more and more about her life. In the end, she saves her friend by going into the gas chamber for her and as she walks through the door she comes back to present time. She then realizes that how things were back then and also understands her Aunts story.

    I would highly recommend this book for adults and teenagers only. It has details that I would not allow a young child under the age of 13 to read.

    If you are looking for a very interesting novel this would be the one to read. I personally love this book! I have watched the movie on this, and it is nothing compared to the book.



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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2014

    I didn't enjoy this book because it was really disturbing and it

    I didn't enjoy this book because it was really disturbing and it was kind of dull. I would not recommend it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2014

    poop

    poop

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  • Posted October 28, 2013

    A good book for children about the Holocaust. Twelve-year-old H

    A good book for children about the Holocaust.

    Twelve-year-old Hannah Stern lives in New Rochelle, NY, with her parents and her younger brother Aaron (whom she calls Ron-ron). The entire family goes to Grandpa Will and Grandma Belle’s home in the Bronx for the Passover Seder. Several aunts and uncles are also there, but Hannah is tired of hearing her relatives always talking about the past, not only the Exodus but especially the Holocaust. However, when she symbolically opens the door to welcome the prophet Elijah, she finds herself transported to a small Jewish village in Poland during the year 1942. At first, she thinks she is just a little woozy or maybe having a dream as a result of drinking the Passover wine.

    Hannah is now Chaya Abramowicz, whose parents have died in Lublin of a plague and who now lives with her aunt Gitl and uncle Shmuel who is soon to marry Fayge Boruch, daughter of a nearby rabbi Reb Boruch. Chaya herself has just recovered from the disease and is very weak. However, as Hannah settles down to life with Gitl and Shmuel, the Nazis come while everyone is arriving at the neighboring village for Schmuel and Fayge’s wedding to take all the Jews to a concentration camp where she meets another young girl named Rivka. What will happen to Chaya/Hannah? Will she ever make it back to her own time and home in New Rochelle? My friend Natalie Bishop said of this book, “I remember when the teachers said they needed to teach the kids about death, I suggested using real events such as the Holocaust (Jane Yolen’s The Devil’s Arithmetic is a good one).”

    Sigh. The Holocaust is certainly an important subject, and everyone, including children, need to remember it. It is just that I have read so many children’s books about it that they get a little old after a while. This one certainly has a different twist with a surprise ending. Of course, the story centers on some horrible events. The name of God is used as couple of times as exclamations, the word “bas*ard” is found, even Chaya begins to call a woman a “bi…,” and the “h” word is said once, though not as an interjection. A suicide is recorded, references to the “smokestack” where Jews are cremated occur, and there is a mass shooting. Also, smoking a pipe and drinking wine are mentioned. This is not a bad book, and there is nothing really undesirable, but parents will need to take into consideration appropriateness for age and sensitivity of children.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2013

    Wow. This book was so incredible. The Holocaust has always been

    Wow. This book was so incredible. The Holocaust has always been a subject of interest for me, but this book really gave the holocaust more meaning. The holocaust is not just a bunch of tragic stories from our history. This book helps one to really put themselves in that place and time, and put themselves into the shoes of the Jewish people who were victims of Hitler's &quot;final solution&quot;.This book gives wonderful and touching examples of true friendship and sacrifice. The most purest love can be found within this book, and it will touch the heart of every soul who reads it.

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  • Posted October 17, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Great read

    This book was very well written and very enjoyable. I like learning about the Holocaust, and this book teaches you a lot of things. It's very touching, and I can't even begin to comprehend what all those people must have gone through. The fact that this book is based on a real event makes it even more horrifying yet entertaining. Great book.

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  • Posted October 1, 2010

    This book rocks

    Book Review Outline
    Book title and author: The Devils Arithmetic
    Title of review: my book review
    Number of stars (1 to 5): 5

    Introduction
    This is my book review it's about the book I raid the book is The Devils Arithmetic I suggest that you read this book. I liked it and I bet you will too.

    Description and summary of main points
    This girl Hannah is Jewish and Hannah is tired of all the Jewish Holladay's and she wishes that her family wasn't Jewish.
    Evaluation
    I though the book was a good and I would recommend that you read it.

    Conclusion
    She's not just Jewish she's also English and Yiddish.

    Your final review
    My book is The Devils Arithmetic I found this book very interesting and I hope that who ever reads this book likes it just like I did I know that Jewish people can relate to this book. The girl was tired of Jewish Holladay's and wishes that her family wasn't Jewish but at the end she finds out that she's not just Jewish.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 16, 2010

    Olatunde Badejo

    The devil's arithmetic is a book that takes you back in time to relive the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps, through the eyes of Hannah, who while at her Seder gets transported back in time. She meets gitl and Shmuel who tell Hannah, who they call chaya, about how she got there. Her parents died of a mysterious disease, which she also got , but she came to live with Gitl and Shmuel before it got serious, and chaya survived. It also happened to be the day before shmuel gets married to fayge. The next day, on their way to the wedding, they run into a group of nazi soldiers who tell them they need to come with them for "relocation". That's when Hannah finds out what year she's in, 1942. She tries to convince the other villagers not to go with the officers, but they decide to follow them. A long train ride ensues, where they are given no food, and 8 villagers die. Then they get to the concentration camp, where they are forced to work. Hannah meets another girl, Rivka, who is actually her aunt Eva in the future, and together they strive to survive in the concentration camp. Then one day a new officer comes to the camp and decides to send rivka for "processing " and Hannah takes her place, ending Hannah's journey in the past.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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