The Devil's Arithmetic

 
Intense Holocaust story makes history real.

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.

Violence

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

Sex
Not applicable
Language
Not applicable
Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

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?

QUALITY
 

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. In the end, this time-travel story, an excellent introduction to the Holocaust, has great power for young readers.

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

This review of The Devil's Arithmetic was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Parent of a 12 year old Written byasdsasddsa April 19, 2010
age 16+
 

horrible

What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 13 years old Written byNEWYORK51 October 21, 2011
age 18+
 

not good

is inapropite for my kids
What other families should know
Too much sex
Teen, 13 years old Written byHeyAlyss October 20, 2011
age 13+
 

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

Poll

Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Digital Compass