Brad Howes shares his thoughts on Jane Yolen's The Devil's Arithmetic:
"The Devil's Arithmetic provides readers with yet another look into concentration camps of the Holocaust. However, I don't know if I got to experience anything other than what I learned from Anne Frank or other documentaries I've seen that recount the most horrific event in human history. Yolen's novel is not based on a true story; rather, The Devil's Arithmetic is based on true events. She explains that it is a combination of several accounts passed on to her from family members who spent time in some of the concentration camps. While probably accurate, the details are quite graphic and gruesome—much too gruesome for the late-elementary school children for which the book claims to be written.
To be fair to Yolen, I personally do not enjoy reading about torture and death—not even to gain historical perspective. I am comfortable with my current knowledge of the Holocaust. That being said, it was a book that I didn't want to put down, and the conclusion, though in hindsight seems quite predictable, blind-sided me. Another struggle I had was the use of Yiddish throughout the novel. I know that adds to the genuineness of a novel with a Jewish narrator, but I was left guessing a lot. And it happens far too often to look up translations along the way.
I'll leave my recommendation open here. If you're into based-on-true-events historical literature, (and know a little Yiddish yourself), you'll be pleased with The Devil's Arithmetic."