The Devil’s Arithmetic

The Devil's Arithmetic


Hannah thinks tonight Passover Seder will be the same as always. But this year she will be mysteriously transported into the past. Only she knows the horrors that await. (Summary and book cover courtesy of


For all a teacher’s good intentions, sometimes a history lesson just simply doesn’t have the impact one would wish it would.  Even as adults, I feel that we often tune things out because actually FEELING all the tragedies that happen on a daily basis would be exhausting.  That is why the most effective stories are the ones that do flip it around and remind us to feel; remind us “to be in their shoes”.  “The Devil’s Arithmetic” is a great story to encourage young reader’s to think about history and what its implications are.  Yolen’s book is particularly effective in this case because it puts a modern child in the shoes of someone in the past. 

There are some small historical inaccuracies, but this doesn’t detract from the impact.  The reason this book is powerful is because it manages to consolidate a vast amount of history into a short, relatable book for young readers.  Had I read it when I was of the targeted audience I believe it certainly would have been five stars from me.

Warning: Contains violence

Rating: 4 stars!

Who should read it? Young adults (and their parents) who need to learn exactly what the Holocaust meant on a personal level.