The Devil's Arithmetic, by Jane Yolen Hannah is twelve and tired of always visiting the same old family members, always listening to the same old stories. But this Passover is different. When she opens the door, this time, Hannah 'becomes' her grandmother and lives her experiences in a concentration camp. Experiencing the horrors first hand changes Hannah in ways she could never have expected. The story is riveting and well told by master storyteller Jane Yolen. A must for readers of all ages! 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.
Reading level: Ages 8 and up
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Puffin; First Edition edition (April 12, 2004)