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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Total Tragedy of a Girl named Hamlet by Erin Dionne

Three Huzzahs for this story. That is “Shakespearean,” for three cheers.

For a middle-schooler, Hamlet’s life feels tragic.

She is joined this year at her school by her second-grade genius sister who is in need of enrichment courses. This is not quite as embarrassing to Hamlet as her eccentric parents, obsessed with Shakespeare, who lead her English class through a lesson on him, complete with tambourine and marching to the beat of iambic pentameter.

Hamlet’s goal is to be as normal as possible burdened as she is with a stand-out family. To further complicate this effort, she is discovered by her enthusiastic English teacher to be a brilliant reader… of Shakespeare. Without even trying out, she is forced to center stage.

For all of that, Hamlet has a good relationship with her sister, and they work out their problems together. When Dezzie, the sister, is used by two self-absorbed, “popular” girls from Hamlet’s class, who get her to feed them the answers to do well in English without actually studying, Hamlet and Dezzie join forces. You might discuss with your tween the choice they made. They considered just forgiving and forgetting; instead, they applied some logical consequences. Since the girls never studied for English, when Dezzie wrote the notecards that they used to read in front of the school for the Shakespeare assembly, they didn’t notice certain “facts,” like Shakespeare designing a submarine for the river Thames, were wildly off-base. The teachers and parents, of course, noticed right away.

There are two references to drugs, both of which are slightly humorous, not serious. One is when they refer to Salvador Dali’s works and make a joke about them maybe looking better if he took drugs. Another time Dezzie’s dad tries to role-play with her how to say no to drugs. At this point, Hamlet takes over the teaching session, much to Dad’s relief, and clearly there is no drug problem at their school; she drops that topic...

Enjoyable read!



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