The Devil’s Arithmetic
Author: Jane Yolen
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 stars
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.
My mom gave me this book and it fit perfectly into my Holocaust fiction kick. It’s a small, thin book and it only took me about an hour to read. It’s simple and uncomplicated and I think would be good for middle school Holocaust education. The only thing I didn’t really like about it was the “time travel” element. I get why Yolen put it in there, and it was good that Hannah “experienced” a lot of the things that she heard her grandparents and aunts and uncles talked about. And I have a feeling that middle schoolers would be far more accepting of fantastic details like that, it just really wasn’t my cup of tea. But other than that, I really liked this book.
I think it would be a great educational tool and it identified a major problem with our current education/youth culture. So many kids don’t care about the Holocaust or learning about it and they tend to either ignore or to sweep it under the rug. This book lays out in simple, yet meaningful detail, the circumstances faced by so many in the camps during those years under Nazi rule. I liked it very much and I would recommend it to anyone who likes slightly fantastic historical fiction and absolutely to any middle schooler.