The Devil’s Arithmetic

The Devil's ArithmeticWritten By: Jane Yolen

This is one of two books I read to my fifth graders every year and I struggle to describe it, knowing I can never do it justice.
Hannah is a girl who believes in living in the present. Traditions are just a way to bring up the past and dwell on the horrors…until Hannah is transported to the past to live through them herself. Hannah’s new life in the 1940’s is a mystery until the Nazi soldiers come to her Polish village. Suddenly her future is very clear. With a new family and new friends, Hannah tries to convince them of what’s to come as they become part of the Holocaust.

Family, friendship, who you are and who you can be are the heart of this story that is not only about the Holocaust, but about something each of us must come to understand within ourselves.

1. Choose a devastating event in history. Make a plan of how you would change those events if you could go back in history.
2. What could have happened if Hannah had been more forceful with her predictions?
3. What events led to Poland’s involvement in WWII? Could it have been avoided? Why?
4. What would you have done if you were Hannah? What if she had been a different age, or a boy?
5. Research people in Hitler’s life. Who could have stopped these events at their beginning? How?

If you are a student and would like to talk about this book, I would love to hear from you! Please send me an email at the address on my contact page.

If you are a teacher and would like a more detailed set of lessons to accompany this book, I will never turn down an opportunity to read this book again. Please contact me.