The Devil's Arithmetic Book Poster Image

The Devil's Arithmetic



Intense Holocaust story makes history real.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

What parents need to know

Educational value

Provides an excellent introduction to the Holocaust, and many opportunities for discussion. Parents and teachers looking for ideas can check out resources highlighted on the author's website.

Positive messages

Readers understand the importance of keeping historical events alive through this book that directly connects horrific past events to the character's life.

Positive role models

The main character is ashamed of her elderly relatives, and tired of their talking about the Holocaust, but she radically changes her mind by the end of the book.


Prisoners are beaten and shot; mass murders are described. Children die and are murdered, including Hannah's friends. Frankly describes Nazi concentration camps.

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this is a book about a girl transported to the time of the Holocaust. Readers understand the importance of keeping historical events alive through this book that directly connects horrific past events to the character's life. It is a gripping story that brings readers face to face with the horrors of the Holocaust, including prisoners being beaten and shot, frank descriptions of Nazi concentration camps -- and the death of children.

What's the story?

Thirteen-year old Hannah detests attending her family Seder. All the talk about remembering the Holocaust bores her until she finds herself transported to a Polish shtetl in 1942. There she joins the inhabitants as they're taken to a concentration camp. Through Hannah, readers find themselves in a grim four-day journey by \ boxcar to the concentration camp. In all that time Hannah gets one cup \ of dirty water to drink; she's packed in so tightly she can't move; with \ no toilet facilities, people simply soil themselves, adding to the \ intolerable odors. On the way, a child dies in her mother's arms and one of Hannah's \ new friends dies too. And that's just the beginning of the horror.


Is it any good?


This time-travel story, an excellent introduction to the Holocaust, has great power for young readers. Teens sometimes casually dismiss the past as irrelevant and uninteresting. In THE DEVIL'S ARITHMETIC, Jane Yolen uses that attitude, and an intriguing time-travel plot device, to place a modern teen in a traumatic historical event, helping to bring history to life and directly connecting past events to the character's life.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the Holocaust. Why do people still read and write about this horrible event? Why is it important to read stories like Hannah's?

  • This book was made into a movie starring Kirsten Dunst. If you've seen the movie, compare and contrast the two. Which tells a more powerful story? If you haven't seen it, do you want to? How do most movies made from books fare?

Book details

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

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Parent of a 12 year old Written byasdsasddsa April 19, 2010


What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Parent of a 6, 11, and 11 year old Written byhermione-miri January 11, 2011

Older Children Classic

Great story for older children to help children understand what other's can do.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 13 years old Written byHeyAlyss October 20, 2011

It is a really good book.

I am a thirteen year old girl reviewing it from my point of view. And, if I'm saying that it is one of my favorite books on the holocaust, then it is true.
What other families should know
Educational value