The Devil's Arithmetic

The Devil's Arithmetic

4.5 174
by Jane Yolen
     
 

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Hannah thinks tonight's Passover Seder will be the same as always. Little does she knowthat this year she will be mysteriously transported into the past where only she knows the horrors that await.  See more details below

Overview

Hannah thinks tonight's Passover Seder will be the same as always. Little does she knowthat this year she will be mysteriously transported into the past where only she knows the horrors that await.

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.
From the Publisher
"A triumphantly moving book."—Kirkus Reviews, pointer review

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

'When 12-year-old Hannah is transported back to a 1940's Polish village, she experiences the very horrors that had embarrassed and annoyed her when her elders related their Holocaust experiences."—Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780670810277
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
10/28/1988
Pages:
176
Product dimensions:
5.82(w) x 8.68(h) x 0.75(d)
Lexile:
730L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Meet 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 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 174 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 FingerFlow.com, 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
jessthebest99 More than 1 year ago
The Devil's Arithmetic is a great book I highly recommend it to teachers especially for their students. I liked this book because of the historical events that took place in it. If you are interested in the holocaust you should defintly read this book. This was a suspenseful story line with great form in the book. The character Hannah at first doesn't really seem to care about the holocaust until she is thrown into it. Throughout the story you see hanna grow and appreciate the family she has and where she is right now. This book shows hope and unity. The Jews never gave up they had hope that they would get through this. I loved reading this book and you learn more about the holocaust and the events that took place. Highly recommend this book. Great read.
Thomas-JacksonJP More than 1 year ago
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.
224perweek More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didn't enjoy this book because it was really disturbing and it was kind of dull. I would not recommend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
poop
HomeSchoolBookReview More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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 "final solution".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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diana45 More than 1 year ago
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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