Friday, July 16, 2010

The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen

Publisher:  1988
Pages:  170
Source:  My shelves
Genre:  Middle Grade Historical Fiction

Hannah  and her family are celebrating a Jewish Holiday.  Hannah really doesn't want to go.  Her mother tells her that Passover just happens to fall on the same day as Easter and it isn't about the food it's about remembering.  Hannah is aware of that. She understands that all Jewish holidays are about remembering and comments she is tired of remembering.  At one point in the celebration one member of the family is to go to the door and open it for the prophet Elijah.  Hannah is chosen for this task.  When she opens the door, instead of seeing the apartment hallway she sees a man walking across a meadow.  As she turns to ask how her family did this the scene behind her has changed.  She has traveled back in time and finds herself being called by her Hebrew name.  She discovers she is living with her aunt and uncle due to her parent's death and her miraculous escape from death.  She remembers her life as Hannah in the future and is confused in this world into which she has been thrust.  The next day is her uncle's wedding day and they day life changes.  They are rounded up and herded into cattle cars for re-location.  As Hannah she understands what is happening.  She has learned all about the Holocaust in school.  As Chaya she can't make anyone believe they are headed to a place that could possibly kill them all.  How will she survive in this new world and how can she possibly find her way back to the future?
I love reading about this time period.  I also love time travel books.  This was a great book to read.  Historically accurate and the characters were very believable.  The message of remembering was one that all students need to hear.  They need to always remember the past events no matter how horrible so that they do not repeat the pattern of evil and mistakes.  This was a book our school has had class sets of and I've had on my shelf for quite some time.  I am glad I finally took time to read it.

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