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The Devil's Arithmetic

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4.01  ·  Rating details ·  50,990 ratings  ·  2,109 reviews
Hannah thinks tonight Passover Seder will be the same as always. But this year she will be mysteriously transported into the past. Only she knows the horrors that await.
Paperback, 170 pages
Published April 12th 2004 by Puffin Books (first published 1988)
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Meaghan
I wish I could say I liked this book. I thought I would. I know it's critically acclaimed and a well-known story. But it left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

The book is meant to educate young people about the Holocaust, but it had a lot of historical inaccuracies. The idyllic shtetl world at the beginning of Chaya's story would have been long gone by 1942 -- by that time, all the Jews left alive in Poland were in ghettos, in concentration camps or in hiding. Lublin, the place Chaya supposedly c
...more
Chris
This semester I am requiring my students to read The True Story of Hansel and Gretel, a novel takes place in Poland during World War II. The good news is that my students love the book; in fact, several of them are reading ahead.

The shocking fact, the bad news, is what they don’t know. It is not just knowledge of history that they lack; it is knowledge of basic geography.

God bless PowerPoint and blackboard.

To be fair, my students do ask intelligent questions, yet the lack of basic knowledge i
...more
Becky
Jul 29, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone -- but especially teenagers that think they are the center of the universe! ;)
Recommended to Becky by: Thrift store find
I wasn't really sure what to make of this book when I first saw it, but after having read it, I would say that I am glad that I did.

This is one of those books that really makes you look at things from a different perspective. I can relate to Hannah, because I remember being 13 and having little patience with traditions and customs, and just wanting to hang out with my friends.

But given the experience Hannah had, she was able to see things in a new way, and was granted a gift, even though it wa
...more
Skip
Jun 16, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
Hannah and her family are celebrating Passover. When Hannah opens the door to look for Elijah, she is transported back in time to 1942 Poland, as the Nazi's are rounding up the Jews for the final solution. Chaya (Hannah) tries to warn her family and friends what is happening, but to no avail as history marches ahead anyway. This book is primarily aimed at younger readers. Yolen's afterword is a highlight.
Lisa Vegan
Sep 16, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everybody at least 12 and up
This is a marvelous book for young adults, although I wouldn’t recommend it as their first introduction to the holocaust because it portrays the atrocities committed in a starkly realistic way. And, unlike some young adult books that I enjoyed as young as nine or ten years old, I wouldn’t give this to kids until they were at least 12.

It is a wonderful story and, because the main character, an American Jewish girl who’s 12 years old, is from the present time (even though the book was written twen
...more
K8
Twelve year old Hannah is sick of spending Passover 'remembering' the past with her relatives. During the Passover Seder, she is transported to 1942 Poland, where she becomes Chaya (her Hebrew name), the girl she was named for. In this time, she is eventually sent to a concentration camp, where the bulk of the story takes place. Throughout the book, she struggles with memory - which memories are real (the future or the now), remembering anything b/c of the trauma of the camp, futilely trying to ...more
Lars Guthrie
Dec 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
Yolen employs a "Magic Tree House" trope to move her main character, Hannah, a bored American thirteen-year-old at her family's Seder dinner, through time, space and language, and it comes off as hokey. Once Hannah becomes Chaya, an orphan living in a Polish village in 1942, though, this tale grabs onto the reader and doesn't let go. Hannah opens the door of her family's apartment to welcome the prophet Elijah and is soon crammed into a crowded cattle car with other Jews on a train destined for ...more
Kim
Feb 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Summary: When Hannah opens the door during Passover Seder to symbolically welcome the profit Elijah, she suddenly finds herself in the unfamiliar world of a Polish village i the 1940's. Hannah had always complained about listening about listening to her relatives tell the same stories of the Holocaust over and over, but now she finds herself in terrifying situation. The Nazi soldiers have come to take the villagers away, and Hannah can guess where they are going.

Response: I loved this book. Bei
...more
Lindsey
Nov 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Lindsey by: My children's lit professor
Anyone and everyone should read this book! It's a very fast read because it was written for children but it tells a beautiful story and has a great twist in the end. The Devil's Arithmetic is about a young Jewish girl who doesn't quite understand her family's past. She finds Jewish holidays and celebrations to be boring and is unappreciative of the hardships Jews have faced. She is mysteriously transported to the past and ends up in a concentration camp. Here she suffers the hardships first hand ...more
Agnė
The Devil’s Arithmetic is a moving and heartbreaking young adult fantasy/historical fiction novella grounded in the real events that happened during the Holocaust. However, I found the first half of the book to be tortuously slow and boring.
Kandice
Jun 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Five stars for the plot device used to tell this story. This is aimed at very young readers and so the grisly subject matter must be presented in a way that allows them to read it without ruining their sleep. Having the main character, a modern day, young Jewish girl, living in New Rochelle, transported back in time does this splendidly.

My three star review is because I didn't feel the story was written very well after that initial stroke of genius. I must admit that part of this could be that I
...more
Janette
Oct 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I usually read to avoid hearing about depressing subjects but I went ahead and read this one even though it was about a Jewish girl living during WW2.

It was a good book, and I got choked up in the end. Then I couldn't get to sleep at night because I was too busy pondering how civilized societies are capable of butchering millions of people. It seems so impossible, and yet it's happened more than once in history.

It makes you look at your friends and neighbors and wonder what sort of hearts of da
...more
Ayanna Dukes
May 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
So, during school (L.A) we're learning about World War II and the Holocaust, I've always wanted to learn more about both topics. My teacher suggested this book to me, and I'm happy that she did. I've never, so far, read a book like this in my life. First of all, this was the first Holocaust book I've read. I just love how this book starts and ends, sort of like a circular ending. Most books wont make me shed tears but this one did. I think it was amazing that Hannah the main character, got to go ...more
Cassandra Ramos
Apr 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My son came home last week and said “mom can you believe my language arts teacher is making us read a book this close to the end of the school year?” Being the book nerd I am I became excited and asked what’s the name of the book and he says “The Devils Arithmetic” well I had never heard of the book and decided to read up on it. After reading the synopsis I immediately put the book on hold to pick up the following day. I read it in one fell swoop! I cried like baby snot cried! I read everything ...more
Molly Grace
Apr 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Luthien
Nov 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Giving this book a star rating and a review feels…strangely inappropriate. No piece of literature is above critique, of course, but after I finished this one, I felt like I had the wind knocked out of me a little. Though it wasn’t flawless, but deconstructing it for a full-fledged review didn’t feel like a constructive exercise. . There are undoubtedly small inaccuracies which older readers, in particular, might find frustrating, but the spirit of the book matters more to me given the themes and ...more
Alex (not a dude) Baugh
Since tonight is the first night of Passover, I thought I would review a book that is appropriate to the season. I chose The Devil's Arithmetic because, like the Passover story, it is also about the importance of remembering who you are and where you came from.

Hannah Stern, 12 but almost 13, is a happy girl living in New Rochelle with her parents and little brother, except that she doesn't want to go to her family's Passover Seder. Bored and apathetic, Hannah is tired of hearing her grandfather
...more
Loralee
Dec 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sara
Dec 04, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Heather, Susan
Recommended to Sara by: Elizabeth
This was really sad and scary. But so REALISTIC!! It's terrifying to think that it acually would happen! (Not the time traveling, the concentration camp.)

It is about a Jewish girl, Hannah, who is at a passover dinner, when she goes through a door and finds herself in 1942. Everyone knows who she is except herself. They think she is an orphan girl called Chaya, which is what her name is in some language. She makes five friends; Rachel, Shirfre, Ester, Yente, and Rivka. Rachel and Yente die on t
...more
Jamie Barringer (Ravenmount)
Nov 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book is a bit like the Chronicles of Narnia, but with a dark twist. A modern, American Jewish girl opens a door and is magically transported back in time into the body of another Jewish girl, just before that girl and her entire village is transported to a Nazi concentration camp. All of a sudden the Holocaust, instead of tiresome stories drummed into her by her older relatives at holiday gatherings, becomes very horrifically real. Having read quite a few nonfiction accounts of the concentr ...more
Echo
Oct 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
Hannah is tired of her family's passover celebration. It's always the same every year, with the old people talking about concentration camps and the war and how important it is to remember, even though it all happened so long ago. Hannah just wants to be like other girls who get to eat candy and decorate Christmas trees and go shopping. But when Hannah is chosen to open the door to welcome the prophet Elijah as part of the celebration, she finds herself transported to another time and another co ...more
Gwyneth
May 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: quarter-4
Summary: The book The Devil's Arithmetic is a book about a girl named Hannah who during Seder dinner gets transported to the past during the beginning of the Holocaust. Hannah becomes a girl named Chaya who's family is being to be transfered to a concentration camp. Her new family has no idea what's going on, but Hannah has a small hunch of what happening. SPOILER ALERT While in the camp, she be-friends two other girls, and when during selection her friends get picked to die, she takes the place ...more
Sara
May 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What a good story. What a good reminder.

So often we get caught up in the busyness of daily life, and we forget. We forget that there has been so much suffering. And while it's not the same type of suffering, there are people all around us that are tormented in one way or another, and that need our empathy and sympathy.

As Winston Churchill is quoted as saying "Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it", I ask: what will we learn if we choose to not study and choose to forge
...more
Ariana
Feb 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read this with my daughters 6th grade reading group. I really liked the way that they introduced the story through the main characters eyes and how she "experienced" what her Grandpa and Aunt had gone through being Jewish and taken to the concentration camps. This was a great book for a 5th or 6th grader to read about this time period in history.
Melanti
Most of Yolen's work that I"ve read so far has been fairy tale related - including other work centered around the Holocaust.

So I was a bit surprised that this has only a mild time-traveling plot device but no fairy tales or any other fantastical elements at all.

But I still really loved it, as I do most of Yolen's work.
Clarissa Johnson
May 30, 2016 rated it liked it
I would have much more enjoyed this book had I read it in middle school or even high school. While it is too simply put for me now, I think it would have hit me hard as a preteen/teenager, and I definitely would suggest it to a younger crowd.
Andrea Kulman
Feb 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book captivated me from beginning to end. The story flowed as if a conductor were actually standing before an entire band conducting a piece of music from Mozart. Such a strong story.
Will Devane
Jun 16, 2016 rated it did not like it
It was a pretty boring book. It took a while to get good and when it did get good it wasn't all that great, and it didn't last that long. Overall, it was an ok book.
Simon
Dec 19, 2011 marked it as unfinished
Couldn't get into it. Struck me as a bit clunky and definitely wore its didactic heart too much on its sleeve.
Morgan
Nov 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
The book, The Devil's Arithmetic, is by Jane Yolen. It takes place in New Rochelle, New York where a thirteen year old girl Hannah lives. Her family is Jewish and they are going to her grandparent's house to celebrate the Jewish holiday, Passover. One of their traditions is to welcome the spirit of the prophet Elijah by opening the door of their home. When Hannah opens the door she time travels to the past. She is a part of a family who calls her Chaya. She is very confused, but reluctantly goes ...more
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Jane Yolen is a novelist, poet, fantasist, journalist, songwriter, storyteller, folklorist, and children’s book author who has written more than three hundred books. Her accolades include the Caldecott Medal, two Nebula Awards, the World Fantasy Award, three Mythopoeic Awards, the Kerlan Award, two Christopher Awards, and six honorary doctorate degrees from colleges and universities in Massachuset ...more
“You are a name, not a number. Never forget that name, whatever they tell you here. You will always be Chaya—life—to me.” 38 likes
“We all have such stories. It is a brutal arithmetic. But I - I am alive. You are alive. As long as we breathe, we can see and hear. As long as we can remember, all those gone before are alive inside us.” 29 likes
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