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The Devil's Arithmetic (Puffin Modern Classics) Paperback – April 12, 2004

4.5 out of 5 stars 360 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When 12-year-old Hannah is transported back to a 1940's Polish village, she experiences the very horrors that had embarrassed and annoyed her when her elders related their Holocaust experiences. Ages 12-up.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From School Library Journal

Grade 4-8 In this novel, Yolen attempts to answer those who question why the Holocaust should be remembered. Hannah, 12, is tired of remembering, and is embarrassed by her grandfather, who rants and raves at the mention of the Nazis. Her mother's explanations of how her grandparents and great-aunt lost all family and friends during that time have little effect. Then, during a Passover Seder, Hannah is chosen to open the door to welcome the prophet Elijah. As she does so, she is transported to a village in Poland in the 1940s, where everyone thinks that she is Chaya, who has just recovered from a serious illness. She is captured by the Nazis and taken to a death camp, where she is befriended by a young girl named Rivka, who teaches her how to fight the dehumanizing processes of the camp and hold onto her identity. When at last their luck runs out and Rivka is chosen, Hannah/Chaya, in an almost impulsive act of self-sacrifice, goes in her stead. As the door to the gas chamber closes behind her, she is returned to the door of her grandparents' apartment, waiting for Elijah. Through Hannah, with her memories of the present and the past, Yolen does a fine job of illustrating the importance of remembering. She adds much to children's understanding of the effects of the Holocaust, which will reverberate throughout history, today and tomorrow. Susan M. Harding, Mesquite Public Library, Tex.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 0730 (What's this?)
  • Series: Puffin Modern Classics
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Puffin Books (April 12, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142401099
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142401095
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.4 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (360 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,744 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born and raised in New York City, Jane Yolen now lives in Hatfield, Massachusetts. She attended Smith College and received her master's degree in education from the University of Massachusetts. The distinguished author of more than 170 books, Jane Yolen is a person of many talents. When she is not writing, Yolen composes songs, is a professional storyteller on the stage, and is the busy wife of a university professor, the mother of three grown children, and a grandmother. Active in several organizations, Yolen has been on the Board of Directors of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, was president of the Science Fiction Writers of America from 1986 to 1988, is on the editorial board of several magazines, and was a founding member of the Western New England Storytellers Guild, the Western Massachusetts Illustrators Guild, and the Bay State Writers Guild. For twenty years, she ran a monthly writer's workshop for new children's book authors. In 1980, when Yolen was awarded an honorary Doctor of Law degree by Our Lady of the Elms College in Chicopee, Massachusetts, the citation recognized that "throughout her writing career she has remained true to her primary source of inspiration--folk culture." Folklore is the "perfect second skin," writes Yolen. "From under its hide, we can see all the shimmering, shadowy uncertainties of the world." Folklore, she believes, is the universal human language, a language that children instinctively feel in their hearts. All of Yolen's stories and poems are somehow rooted in her sense of family and self. The Emperor and the Kite, which was a Caldecott Honor Book in 1983 for its intricate papercut illustrations by Ed Young, was based on Yolen's relationship with her late father, who was an international kite-flying champion. Owl Moon, winner of the 1988 Caldecott Medal for John Schoenherr's exquisite watercolors, was inspired by her husband's interest in birding. Yolen's graceful rhythms and outrageous rhymes have been gathered in numerous collections. She has earned many awards over the years: the Regina Medal, the Kerlan Award, the World Fantasy Award, the Society of Children's Book Writers Award, the Mythopoetic Society's Aslan Award, the Christopher Medal, the Boy's Club Jr. Book Award, the Garden State Children's Book Award, the Daedalus Award, a number of Parents' Choice Magazine Awards, and many more. Her books and stories have been translated into Japanese, French, Spanish, Chinese, German, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Afrikaans, !Xhosa, Portuguese, and Braille. With a versatility that has led her to be called "America's Hans Christian Andersen," Yolen, the child of two writers, is a gifted and natural storyteller. Perhaps the best explanation for her outstanding accomplishments comes from Jane Yolen herself: "I don't care whether the story is real or fantastical. I tell the story that needs to be told."

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
"Who, who are those men in black suits blocking our wedding," Fayge exclaimed. Chaya yelled,"They're Nazis. Nazis! They will kill six million Jews! Don't you understand we have to run!" All the people including the Rabbi thought Chaya (Hannah) was crazy, but she knew it was just a matter of time until they soon found out the truth. Hannah, in the book The Devil's Arithmetic; is an ordinary girl living in the present day, but when she goes to her grandfather's house she has a strange experience. As she opens the door for the prophet Elijah, she looks foward and finds herself in another time zone. She looks back into the house and sees all of her family members with an elegant and delicious meal on the table. Curious about what was on the other side of the door, she steps out and realizes that she is in the time right before the Holocaust. She is no longer Hannah; she is Chaya, and she is about to embark on a terrifying journey to a concentration camp. The author of this book, Jane Yolen, shows that she has a great talent in writing books that deeply touch your emotions. The content of the book is a great source of history as well as a story filled with morals about life and the human race. Most of the book is written in the form of conversations. This kind of writing style helps the reader really understand the character's feelings and thoughts. In addition, Jane Yolen uses the triple period often, which ;eaves the reader's mind open as to what the character was going to say. Her writing is extremely desriptive, and the detail she includes makes it possible for the reader to imagine the setting. Overall, I think Jane Yolen is a great, and superb writer. I think The Devil's Arithmetic is definitely A Newberry Award winning book.Read more ›
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A Kid's Review on November 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This touching story is based on a 12 year old girl who is living in present day New Rochelle, NY. Her name is Hannah Stern, and the story starts when she goes to her grandpa's house for a Passover celebration. Hannah hates this holiday since she hates remembering anything, espically in the form of a boring Seder. When she opens the door to let Elijah, the prophet in, she finds herself in a shetl dating in the early 40's. She is told the people she is living with are her aunt and uncle. Everyone calls her Chaya, which means life. They tell her she went to live in Lublin, where she and her parents caught cholera. Only she barely survived. This whole time, she convinces herself that it is a strange dream. When she goes to a wedding, she is taken by the Nazis to a concentration camp by train. She befriends Rivka, a 10 year old who has been there a year. She learns how truely important it is to remember, as her memories of her life in New Rochelle fade. Hannah-or Chaya, leanrs how to survive through it all, by keeping memories strong.
I think this was a BRILLIANT book, and I have read it more than once. It may be a little deep for those under 11, but it is good for a reader looking for a challange. Beyond that, it is in depth with the Holocaust. I reccommend anyone studying the subject to read it. Also, I believe this will greatly touch young Jews who seem like Hannah at the beginning of the story. I can't see how the story is unable to touch anyone's heart.
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Format: Paperback
This is Schindler's List for children, a chilling account of the Holocaust from the point of view of a young girl. Yolen skimps on few details, and you can tell that her story comes straight from the heart.
Hannah, a modern Jewish girl, is irritated by the Passover Seder and the "remembering" of the Holocaust, which some of her relatives lived through. But when she opens the door for Elijah, she is transported through time and space to a village in Poland.
Soon the Nazis arrive, and Hannah (called "Chaya" by everyone in this new time) must both try to survive and to keep her friends alive in the deathcamps.
I tried very, very hard to summarize this story, but the spiritual and emotional tones are simply impossible to talk about. This is an intense book, the descriptions of it simply can't express the greatness of this plot.
A haunting tale of life, death, memory and sorrow. Even though this is a children's book, it may be disturbing for younger readers--you might want to talk to your children about it afterward.
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Format: Paperback
The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen is an excellent book at any time of year, but a great choice to read in honor of both Passover and Yom Ha'Shoah.

The story involves 12 year old Hannah, who is bored out of her mind at her family's Seder in the current day, and just being an unhappy typical pre-teen annoyed by all her older relatives fussing over her and telling her how it's all about remembering yadda yadda.

But when she goes ungraciously to the door to welcome Elijah, the whole world changes and suddenly she is in a Polish shtetl on the eve of a joyous wedding celebration. Everyone thinks she is Chaya, a recently orphaned relative. But when Germans and trucks show up to "resettle" the villagers, Hannah/Chaya is the one who knows what's really happening and what is going to happen.

Hannah/Chaya experiences both the joys of the soon-to-be-gone shtetl life and the horrors of transport and the camps, making this an excellent educational read for young adult readers who aren't interested in non-fiction about the Shoah. And I especially liked the way the framing story acknowledges that sometimes Passover and the Seder can seem like a drag to an older child too old for the "childish" parts of the tradition but not old enough to appreciate the deeper meanings.

This was a very fast read as an adult and I'd recommend it for older kids with some understanding of the Shoah. Even though it's written as a young adult book, I found myself fully involved in the story and moved by it, and was in tears at various parts. It's well worth reading during this season as a reminder of all we need to remember and how much we have to be grateful for in our freedom.
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