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The Devil's Arithmetic

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

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 16 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 70 reviews

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

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 & 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 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 12 year old Written byasdsasddsa April 19, 2010
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.
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.
Teen, 13 years old Written bykirss April 12, 2010
i think that this book is very good, and i dont think that it is bad for any children at all. I think it is very good for kids ages 12 and older because it actu... Continue reading

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.

Talk to your kids 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

For kids who love history and historical fiction

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