The Devil's Arithmetic

Book review by Monica Wyatt, Common Sense Media
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Common Sense says

age 12+

Intense Holocaust tale makes history real for young readers.

Parents say

age 12+

Based on 15 reviews

Kids say

age 12+

Based on 83 reviews

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Community Reviews

age 11+

it is a awsome book

age 13+

The Devil You Know...And The One You Need to Know

Thirteen-year-old Hannah Stern is a modern Jewish girl living in New York, who doesn't understand the importance of her heritage and is embarrassed by her grandfather's reaction to any mention of the Holocaust. There aren't any concentration camps now, she tells her mother, so what's the point of remembering? During the Seder, Hannah is invited to open the apartment door for the prophet Elijah...and is whisked back in time to Poland, circa 1942. When the Nazis descend upon the Jewish village where she finds herself, Hannah knows what they're up to but no one will listen. Hannah is forced to endure life in a concentration camp. Throughout her journey, Hannah learns valuable lessons about her heritage, appearance vs. reality, memory, and more. Her growth and maturity will inspire readers, especially near the end of the book. Other characters mentor Hannah along the way, showing great courage and sacrifice. The village's rabbi reminds his congregants they are in God's hands. Hannah makes a commitment to remember the Holocaust once she returns from time travel. Of course, the major issue here lies in the Nazis' treatment of Jewish inmates. It's actually far less graphic than it could be, but abuse is still quite prevalent. Readers get a full picture of dehumanizing procedures such as forced stripping, tattooing, and hair-shaving. Prisoners are continually physically abused, and some are hung as the result of a failed escape attempt. A guard carries a child into gas chambers. Other prisoners, including a three-year-old, die from malnutrition and disease. If your children are ready to navigate these, consider holding a discussion after they read the book. You will find plenty of great fodder.

This title has:

Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence

Book Details

  • Author: Jane Yolen
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Book type: Fiction
  • Publisher: Penguin Group
  • Publication date: January 1, 1988
  • Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 14
  • Number of pages: 70
  • Last updated: July 12, 2017

Our Editors Recommend

For kids who love history and Holocaust stories

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