Module 10 Historical Fiction
The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen
After bing lectured of the importance of remembrance Hannah attends Passover dinner with her family. One moment she is standing at the door to welcome the prophet Elijah into the home and the next she has been transported to 1942. In 1942, she is known as Chaya and she has trouble remembering her real life or even determining which life is true. Unfortunately, she all to aware of the terrible actions that take place between the Nazis and the Jewish community. She is forced to live through these events knowing that the people around her will die and everything is not as it seems. As Chaya she learns the ways of the camp quickly and does all she can to help others. She experiences loss and forms a bond with a girl named Rivka. In the end she sacrifices herself for her friend. Like a dream she is transported back to the moment she opened the door.
Yolen, J. (1988). The Devil’s Arithmetic. New York: Puffin Books.
My Impressions of the Book
Yolen gives the readers the experience of sharing these moments with fictional Holocaust victims. However, it is more eye opening than history books that account for the victims in numbers without an glimpse into personal activities of feelings. The story is also told with the new element of one character (Hannah / Chaya) knowing exactly what awaits them in the concentration camps. It is unimaginable what these victims experienced, but Yolen allows readers to remember the love they continued to share with one another even when all hope was lost. The Devil’s Arithmetic is a must read and I hope readers carry on the message of remembrance.
The Devil's Arithmetic is about a girl taken into the time of the Holocaust. She experienced everything she had read about her religion and almost experienced the terrifying way some of her fellow Jews died.
Throughout this book, the emotions sweep over you, not fully sinking in until the end of the book when you realize what happened. There is so much truth and reality, it hurts. It hurts to actually have to face the fact that there were and still are people in this world so cold-blooded and mean that they would actually put people through such torture. I don't think I've ever read a book more meaningful than The Devil's Anthmetic. It would take the coldest of hearts to read this book without feeling pain for the Jews and hatred for the Nazis. I kept asking myself questions: "How could somebody do this? Who could have been so powerful to plant these thoughts and ideas in the heads of their pathetic followers?"
I recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a very powerful book. -Bailey O'Keefe, Grade 8 Oyster River Middle School, Durham, New Hampshire
O’Keefe, B. (1998, September). The Devil’s Arithmetic [Review of the book The Devil’s Arithmetic by J. Yolen]. Voices From the Middle, C5.
Ideas for Library Use
A creative way to continue Yolen’s message of remembrance would be to allow students to help make a bulletin board of memories for Holocaust victims and their families. Include a cover shot of The Devil’s Arithmetic in the center of the bulletin board.