The Devil's Arithmetic

Book review by
Monica Wyatt, Common Sense Media
The Devil's Arithmetic Book Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Intense Holocaust tale makes history real for young readers.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 15 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 82 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

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

It's important to remember the past, even when it's horrific. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

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.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Jane Yolen's The Devil's Arithmtic is about contemporary teen Hannah, who's transported to the time of the Holocaust. Readers will understand the importance of keeping historical events alive as this book directly connects horrific past events to Hannah's life. It's 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 9 and 10-year-old Written byslk9196 December 4, 2011

Multifaceted learning opportunity for older kids

My 5th grader is reading this book in school, so I decided to read along. I found it to be a riveting, deeply moving story on many levels. At the most obvious... Continue reading
Adult Written byBenny boy October 15, 2018
Teen, 13 years old Written byAlyssam1501 April 2, 2014

Devils Arithmetic

The Devils Arithmetic was a phenomenal book about a girl named Hannah who turns into a girl named Chaya and suddenly faces the harshness of the holocaust. She l... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bymagentagiraffe07 December 5, 2019


I absalutly LOVED this book, it was rivating, and I couldent put it down. Its alittle violent, and includes lots of death and a little bit of drinking, but othe... Continue reading

What's the story?

As THE DEVIL'S ARITHMETIC begins, 13-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. In The Devil's Arithmetic, author 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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about details of the Holocaust shown in The Devil's Arithemtic. 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, which is more powerful, the book or the film? If you haven't seen it, do you want to? How do most movies made from books fare?

  • What other stories of the Holocaust have you read or seen? How does this one compare? 

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history and Holocaust stories

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