The Devil's Arithmetic: A Book Review

It was known as a disturbing and horrifying point in history that still raises hair today. It was the Holocaust. Jane Yolen's THE DEVIL'S ARITHMETIC recaptures the terror and strong emotions of the 1940's. She lures you in with nightmarish scenes that will make your heart stop. Shocking historical tid-bits are yet another one of her clever techniques to draw the reader into the book.

This unique novel is about a Jewish girl named Hannah who lives in the present day. The festive Passover dinner that she celebrates with her family (some being survivors of the Holocaust) turns into a blast to the past. As 13-year old Hannah extends her hand to pull the door open to greet the prophet, Elijah, she finds herself among a modest Jewish household. The members of the tiny shack mistakenly believe her to be one of their relatives. Little does Hannah know that she is reliving the life of her Aunt Eva's old friend, Chaya. The experience opens her mind and nothing is ever the same.

This is a compelling novel. There is so much to learn from it. Many of the frightening moments of the Holocaust are creatively retold in a way that makes you want to feed on all the details. The author uses carefully chosen adjectives ("harsh," "the devil's work," and the "monsters" are some good examples) to form dramatic scenes such as when she brilliantly describes the inhumane and evil practices of the Nazis. The characters are assigned very real personalities so the reader feels as if they had met them. Hannah, for instance, always seems to do what you might do and that happens in the end when she dies for a close friend. Jane Yolen is an extremely gifted and talented author.

I highly recommend this young adults' novel to readers ages 10 and up. It will give children of today sense of appreciation for what they have. THE DEVIL'S ARITHMETIC by Jane Yolen is simply a must-read book.