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The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet Paperback – January 6, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Hoping to fly under the radar in middle school, Hamlet’s dream of a quiet eighth-grade year is dashed. Her genius seven-year-old sister, Desdemona, is also enrolled in eighth grade so she can fill her homeschooled curriculum deficiencies in the arts before moving on to college, and her flamboyant Shakespearean scholar parents—in full Elizabethan garb—offer their expertise in Hamlet’s class. Hamlet vacillates between being protective of Dezzie and distancing herself. But when two popular girls befriend Dezzie, Hamlet wonders at their motives and causes a rift with her sister when she voices the suspicion that they are taking advantage of Dezzie’s smarts to help them pass their classes. Hamlet further stands out during a dazzling reading of A Midsummer Night's Dream,which reveals her natural talent for theater. Some sisterly bonding, the sweet flutterings of a first romance, and a creatively contrived comeuppance for the mean girls make this a cheerful read for younger middle-schoolers. Grades 4-7. --Heather Booth --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Hamlet believably grows to fit the new challenges in her life, and her frustrations, presented in a good-humored, first-person narrative, are entertainingly contained within the three Shakespearean(ish) acts of this amusing tale...
--Kirkus Reviews

[Hamlet's] emotions will resonate with anyone who has been embarrassed by family or confused by boys.  --Publisher's Weekly

I totally, untragically, LOVED Hamlet! --Lauren Myracle, best-selling author

"An excellent choice for middle school readers." -School Library Journal

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 0750 (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Puffin Books (January 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142417483
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142417485
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #76,745 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Erin Dionne writes humorous books with heart for tweens. Her titles--which are very long--have been named to several state reading lists, ALA lists, and have received some nice attention. They include MODELS DON'T EAT CHOCOLATE COOKIES (Dial 2009), THE TOTAL TRAGEDY OF A GIRL NAMED HAMLET (Dial 2010), and NOTES FROM AN ACCIDENTAL BAND GEEK (Dial 2011). Her latest novel, MOXIE AND THE ART OF RULE BREAKING:A 14 DAY MYSTERY (Dial 2013), has the longest title yet and is based on the real-life Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum art heist. She spends an inappropriate amount of time on Facebook, teaches writing at Montserrat College of Art, and lives outside of Boston with her husband, two children, and a very indignant dog.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By KidsReads on February 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Eighth-grader Hamlet Kennedy has a complicated relationship with Shakespeare. She just wants to be a normal middle-schooler, but it's a little hard given her first name (her mother and father thought about naming her Ophelia but decided it would be too much of a downer). As if that weren't bad enough, Hamlet is mortified any time her Renaissance Faire-dressing parents (both Shakespeare scholars) show up at school. And now they're likely to be stopping by more often since Hamlet's younger sister, Desdemona, is going to be taking some classes at Howard Hoffer Middle School. Oh, did I mention that Dezzie is only seven years old? This math and science prodigy is ready to start college, except for the little details of never having taken art or music appreciation courses. That's where Hamlet's middle school --- and Hamlet herself, who has enlisted as Dezzie's tour guide --- comes in.

What's more, Hamlet's English and history classes are embarking on an interdisciplinary "Salute to Shakespeare," complete with assignments to create a scale model of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre (Hamlet's dad already has several in the basement) and to perform scenes from A Midsummer Night's Dream. Hamlet never thought she had anything in common with her Shakespeare-obsessed parents or with her freakily talented little sister. But when Hamlet is singled out for the natural skill and fluency with which she reads the Bard's immortal words, she starts to realize that she --- and not just her unusual family --- might be worthy of attention.

To top off Hamlet's confusion and embarrassment, someone has been leaving cute little origami pigs (Get it? Ham?) in her locker. Is it a secret admirer or someone making fun of her? And how about prodigy Dezzie's newfound "friendship" with popular girls Saber and Mauri?
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on July 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Eighth grade for Hamlet Kennedy isn't looking too great so far. Her genius seven year-old sister is in eighth grade WITH her, her parents are obsessed with Shakespeare, and a mystery person is leaving origami pigs in her locker!! This is a hilarious story that you just can't put down! Huzzah for Hamlet (the "huzzah" relates to the book). This is a MUST READ!!!!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Lea Kelley on May 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Hamlet Kennedy has more problems that just her unusual name. Her parents are the kind of enthusiastic Shakespeare scholars who wear Elizabethan gear around town, cook authentic Shakespearean meals (pottage, anyone?), and disdain contractions as "commoner's speech." Meanwhile, her seven-year-old sister is so smart that she's ready to start college, except for some pesky art credits, so Desdemona is spending her mornings at school with eighth grader Hamlet. Hamlet is also flunking pre-algebra, trying desperately to avoid her class project on A Midsummer Night's Dream, and confused by the origami pigs that keep appearing in her locker.

So far, eighth grade has not been a stellar year.

The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet is a very funny book, yet moving at the same time. I caught myself laughing frequently at this book during silent reading time. The writing in this book is very witty, and Hamlet's absurd parents are deservedly the butt of many jokes. I also found myself really mad at Hamlet's parents during parts of this book for their selfish behavior.

I read this book because I wanted to put it on my summer reading list, and I'm glad that I did. Although it's written for a younger audience than most of the books that I read, the novel really captures just how hard it can be to be fourteen years old. And though the overall book is funny, there are also very moving sections as Hamlet struggles to deal with her classmates, her teachers, and her family. This is one of those middle grade novels that really captures just how difficult those early teen years are. Middle school readers should definitely check out this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By B. Price on April 30, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
"All's not fair in life and middle school..."

No truer words have been spoken. And while I think it would be cool having parents who are Shakespearean scholars that dress in Elizabethan-era clothing - in public - and serve dinners from an Elizabethan-era cookbook, I can see how that might cause a few problems for a middle schooler. Add to that a genius 7 year old sister, who is matriculating in the same grade as you because she needs the art credit for her college courses as well as the socialization, and well, you have a tale of woe for one Hamlet Kennedy.

I initially purchased this book for my younger daughter. I hoped it would give her some perspective and something to laugh at as she was/is dealing with a similar situation. (no, I don't dress in Shakespearean regalia.) She didn't get far into the book because she felt it was a bit too close to her real life but now that I've finished it, I'm going to encourage her to give it another chance.

Ms. Dionne did an excellent job of describing the pitfalls and problems facing middle schoolers. She also provided options for navigating these tricky waters. From mean girls, friend issues, academic struggles, and parental embarrassment, Hamlet proved nothing is insurmountable. Ms. Dionne also seems to be sending a few messages about following your passion, not worrying about what others think, being true to yourself, and having fun. Hamlet had been surviving by trying to be invisible, not standing out...but she learned that having a talent - being seen - isn't all that bad.

I truly enjoyed Hamlet's story. It jarred some memories for me as well as gave me some insight into the world my two youngest children inhabit.
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