I think The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen ranks not only as one of the best Holocaust fiction books for children, but as a general all-around well written book. In addition to other Holocaust survivor stories such as Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, Journey to America by Sonia Levitin, and Daniel's Story by Carol Matas, Yolen's story was so emotionally capturing that I couldn't stop reading. Readers of any age will become captivated with Hannah Stern's story as she is transported from modern day to the time of the Jewish Holocaust – a time of hardships, struggles and ultimately death for the Jewish people of Europe.
What I found so fascinating and different about this story is that Hannah also holds the memories of her life in modern times. All of these memories become a sort of facade as she spends more and more time in the Nazi concentration camp. This depiction of draining memories of those who survived in the concentration camps is an accurate telling of how the Nazis wanted the Jews to live; to drain them of their past and happy lives and only follow the rules.
One of my favorite quotes in this sad and heartfelt story is when Hannah says to Gitl, "How can you laugh?" to which Gitl replies, "Without laughter, there is no hope. Without hope, there is no life." This particular quote especially struck home for me. Thinking about all of the sad events that have happened, there has always been one family member who has tried to make our family laugh.
Lastly, after reading this book you'll also take away the following message: "Don't take what you have for granted because you never know when it will be stripped away." This message is certainly one worth keeping.
I give this book 4.8 out of 5 stars.
—Carly M., STACKS Staffer