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The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet
By Erin Dionne

Erin Dionne’s done it again! Her first novel, MODELS DON’T EAT CHOCOLATE COOKIES, won praise and garnered some excellent reviews. The latest, THE TOTAL TRAGEDY OF A GIRL NAMED HAMLET, another mid-grade novel, is sure to have students talking (and reading!). Dionne’s sense of humor is woven throughout her tightly written plot, filled with funny situations that would give any student angst. In honor of the main character, appropriate quotes from Shakespeare’s play are sprinkled throughout the review.

"Something is rotten in the state of Denmark."
-    William Shakespeare, “Hamlet”

Just how embarrassing can your parents be? In Hamlet’s case: very. Imagine your parents walking around dressed like they just teleported from Shakespeare’s England and saying things like, “Goodwill to you” and “Huzzah” in the halls at your school. More humiliating, imagine they named you, their little girl, after a guy in a Shakespearean tragedy. Hamlet’s life seems pretty rotten, right? But wait, there’s more…and it gets worse.

“To be, or not to be: that is the question”
-    William Shakespeare, “Hamlet”

If you’ve ever had to follow in the shadow of high-achieving older siblings, then you will surely commiserate with Hamlet. She has a little sister, Dezzie, who’s a genius and is going to attend Hamlet’s middle school. Oh, the embarrassment. Although Hamlet reluctantly shines in drama, she is struggling in math. In the meantime, guess who becomes one of the math tutors?

Dionne does a fabulous job illustrating the perils of middle school, as Hamlet tries to juggle not wanting to stand out against the attention she’s receiving. The author also adeptly shows Dezzie’s forays into the tangled world of cliques. We are torn between rooting for normalcy for Hamlet and wondering why she doesn’t embrace her own gifts. It really is tough to be in eighth grade!

"This above all: to thine own self be true”
-    William Shakespeare, “Hamlet”

As the novel progresses, Dionne manages to keep the pace and the humor moving forward. The mystery of the Globe, wondering whether or not she will see her talents, and hoping the family can learn to speak one another’s language keeps us turning the pages. In the end, we await discovery if Hamlet will be true to herself.

"A rhapsody of words."
-    William Shakespeare, “Hamlet”

The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet is well crafted and an enjoyable read. Erin Dionne is a skillful writer who has captured the life in a typical (but funny) middle school. Her use of voice and interspersed dramatic vignettes shows how carefully she crafts her work. This novel is perfect for a class set for reading together or literature circles, as it is a wholesome book that has themes of family, friendship, and discovering oneself. It would make a great gift for a mid-grade level reader. I highly recommend it! Coming in January 2010 from Dell Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Group, Inc. Preorder from a bookstore near you!

-Marjorie Light

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( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 8th, 2009 01:29 am (UTC)
Thank you, Marjorie!! I'm so glad you enjoyed Total Tragedy!
Oct. 8th, 2009 08:19 pm (UTC)
I just had one of my students read REAL MODELS... and say, "I can't wait to read another book by this author...I really like the way she writes!" I showed her this review (another English teacher borrowed my ARC of ...GIRL NAMED HAMLET)and she was SOOO excited to see that she doesn't have to wait too long!
Nov. 19th, 2009 09:18 pm (UTC)
Mrs Light-
Thanks for letting me read your copy of The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet. So far I have enjoyed it. I will let you know how I like it a little later in the book!
- From a student in 4th per English ;)
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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