The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen

January 3, 2017 Whitney Review 0 Comments

The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane YolenThe Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen
Published by Puffin Books on April 12th 2004
Genres: Young Adult
Source: Library

Hannah dreads going to her family's Passover Seder—she's tired of hearing her relatives talk about the past. But when she opens the front door to symbolically welcome the prophet Elijah, she's transported to a Polish village in the year 1942. Why is she there, and who is this "Chaya" that everyone seems to think she is? Just as she begins to unravel the mystery, Nazi soldiers come to take everyone in the village away. And only Hannah knows the unspeakable horrors that await. A critically acclaimed novel from multi-award-winning author Jane Yolen.

I first read The Devil’s Arithmetic in sixth grade. I remember being amazed not only by the subject matter but also by the way Jane Yolen laid out impending events. Even at eleven years old I was astounded by the atrocities that occur in the book and left an impression on me.

Twenty years later and I am still stunned by The Devil’s Arithmetic. At first, like Hannah, I was in the know, grasping what a black van with men in uniform symbolized and the identifying tattoo. However, once Hannah boarded the train, the air became stale and my stomach twisted. I felt sick when a baby died enroute and had an intake of breath when a pair of newlyweds chose death over separation. Jane Yolan’s book is shockingly raw and must be read with eyes wide open.

As for Hannah and Rivka, a girl she befriends in the camps, I was humbled by their strength and journey as a united front. I also enjoyed the tying of two generations together, with Hannah realizing there is much to be learned from her Great-Aunt Eva.

The Devil’s Arithmetic is a very disturbing book for any age. It is well written, and emphasizes the heinous acts that occurred in vivid colors. Jane Yolen has penned a work that transcends generations and is a beautifully haunting read.


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