The Devil's Arithmetic

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Ages 9-12
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"A triumphantly moving book."  —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Hannah dreads going to her family's Passover Seder—she's tired of hearing her relatives talk about the past. But when she opens the front door to symbolically welcome the prophet Elijah, she's transported to a Polish village in the year 1942. Why is she there, and who is this "Chaya" that everyone seems to think she is? Just as she begins to unravel the mystery, Nazi soldiers come to take everyone in the village away. And only Hannah knows the unspeakable horrors that await. A critically acclaimed novel from multi-award-winning author Jane Yolen. 

"[Yolen] adds much to understanding the effects of the Holocaust, which will reverberate throughout history, today and tomorrow." —SLJ, starred review

"Readers will come away with a sense of tragic history that both disturbs and compels." —Booklist

Winner of the National Jewish Book Award
An American Bookseller "Pick of the Lists"
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About the author

Jane Yolen is the author of more than three hundred books, including Owl MoonThe Devil’s Arithmetic, and How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?. Her books and stories have won the Caldecott Medal, National Jewish Book Award and numerous awards and accolades. She splits her time between Massachusetts and St. Andrews, Scotland.
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97 total

Additional Information

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Published on
Oct 1, 1990
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Juvenile Fiction / Historical / Holocaust
Juvenile Fiction / Religious / Jewish
Juvenile Fiction / Time Travel
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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I am a reader. When I was very young, I was fortunate to have a wonderful primary teacher who recognized the reader in me and fed it with an unending stream of books. Though she is worthy of much more, this first book is dedicated to her.

There was a delightful little library on Main Street in Salem, Virginia. It was quaint and inviting in its park-like setting, and I was privileged to spend many hours there. I remember, though, that the books did not jump off the shelves at me. Sometimes they sat there and put up a passive resistance, almost as if they were the enemy of my desire to read. Still, I persevered, and I found good books to enjoy.

But I was motivated to read. What of the student who is not so motivated, who can take reading or leave it to spend time in other ways? Would we have that student spend time in those other ways, never to learn the joy of reading a good story or to experience the thrill of becoming lost in a good book? I hope not without a fight.

So that is what "Nightmare at Indian Cave" is about. The title is chosen to jump off the shelf at the student. The book is deliberately short. I hope it will not intimidate even the most reluctant reader. The chapters are not overly long and hopefully they will keep the reader's attention. The subject matter should interest kids, especially those from the mountains and rural settings. The vocabulary is not difficult, though it is not without the occasional challenge. Dialogue is used extensively in the belief that it has a power to involve the reader. One university English professor called the book "a real page turner". I considered that a great compliment because that is exactly what I intended the book to be. I only hope he was right, but I won't know until the book is in your students' hands.

Though this book is a fantasy, and is a fiction in every respect, I made some effort to be true to history. Daniel Boone is known to have been in what is now Scott County, Virginia at about this time. Benge was not. He came along a few years later. Our Benge is the product of a boy's nightmare, and though he may be based on the legend of "Chief" Robert Benge, he is fictional. The real Benge was probably Cherokee, though opinion on that is divided. The mention of beehive coke ovens may be noticed. They have been dormant for some time now, but I could not resist reviving them.

Tony and Jon are unwilling participants when they find themselves transported back into the year 1774 with Billy. However it happened, they are trapped with Billy in a nightmare adventure. The monster, Hargus, a bear-like pioneer and Benge's partner, wants to kill Billy in a scheme for vengeance that transcends time and dimension. Only the strong pioneer girl, Emily, can save the boys. She doesn't understand how, but she knows that she and Billy must somehow save themselves together. As they are pursued by Hargus and Benge, the boys' knowledge of the mountainous area becomes a factor in the survival of the pioneer town and its inhabitants, and each of the boys and Emily are tested before they finally meet the evil Hargus in a fight to the death.

Middle School students should enjoy this book. It was written for them; however, many older students and adults may find the story interesting. Not enough has been written about the history of the Appalachian Mountains and their place in America's history. The fascinating legend of the Melungeons is beginning to get some attention, but so far much of what is written about these mountain people is contradictory or negative. I don't attempt to throw light on that controversy. I simply want to point out that these people were here when the first pioneers came to the Virginia mountains, and they have a place in our history, as well as our fiction.

The town of Guest's Crossing does not exist,
From the best-selling and award-winning author of The Devil's Arithmetic, Jane Yolen, comes her first Holocaust novel in nearly thirty years. Influenced by Dr. Mengele's sadistic experimentations, this story follows twins as they travel from the Lodz ghetto, to the partisans in the forest, to a horrific concentration camp where they lose everything but each other.

It's 1942 in Poland, and the world is coming to pieces. At least that's how it seems to Chaim and Gittel, twins whose lives feel like a fairy tale torn apart, with evil witches, forbidden forests, and dangerous ovens looming on the horizon. But in all darkness there is light, and the twins find it through Chaim's poetry and the love they have for each other. Like the bright flame of a Yahrzeit candle, his words become a beacon of memory so that the children and grandchildren of survivors will never forget the atrocities that happened during the Holocaust.

Filled with brutality and despair, this is also a story of poetry and strength, in which a brother and sister lose everything but each other. Nearly thirty years after the publication of her award-winning and bestselling The Devil's Arithmetic and Briar Rose, Yolen once again returns to World War II and captivates her readers with the authenticity and power of her words.

Praise for Mapping the Bones:

"Jane Yolen's Mapping the Bones is a swift and deadly drama with overtones of dark fable we all wish we could forget. But this book, a shining star held in a trembling palm, requires us to remember." --Gregory Maguire, internationally bestselling author of Wicked

"Mapping the Bones is spare and beautiful and haunting. Jane Yolen has created a masterpiece." --Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, New York Times bestselling author of The War That Saved My Life

"Master storyteller Jane Yolen has outdone herself. This is a compelling, important, necessary, and timely book that deserves the widest audience possible." --Lesléa Newman, award-winning author of Still Life with Buddy

"In the hands of the superb Jane Yolen, folklore and fact connect in a harrowing testimony to horror and to love. Brutal, relentless, prophetic, and full of truth." --Elizabeth Wein, New York Times bestselling author of Code Name Verity

"A compassionate, unflinching, unforgettable Nazi labor camp Hansel & Gretel tale woven by America's finest spinner of Holocaust stories for young readers." --Julie Berry, author of the Printz Honor Book The Passion of Dolssa

"[An] expansive, eloquent novel." --Publishers Weekly

"Yolen does a superb job of dramatizing the horrors of WWII and the Holocaust, bringing vivid fear and suspense to her captivating story. It makes for altogether memorable and essential reading." --Booklist

"[A] breath-taking and heartbreaking look at the horrors of war and the lengths people go to overcome." --Voice of Youth Advocates

"Fans of Yolen's The Devil's Arithmetic will be engrossed in this story until the last page." --School Library Journal

"[A] well-rounded story of a very difficult time that shows the resiliency of these young people." --School Library Connection
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