Ideas for Learners Promoting Literacy, Inquiry, and Meaningful Learning Experiences
The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet

Book Summary

Hamlet Kennedy is just a normal eighth grade girl . . . well, that's what she's trying to be, anyway. Her parents are Shakespearean professors who have been known to dress up in Elizabethan costumes in public, and her seven-year-old sister is a genius. Hamlet does her best to blend in at school, which becomes impossible when her parents decide to send her little sister to Hamlet's middle school. When Hamlet's English teacher discovers how well she can act, it becomes even harder for Hamlet to hide.
The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet book cover
The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet

Book Review

There are many things that work well in this book, but there are a couple of things that, if tweaked, would make it so much more effective. Hamlet is a highly appealing character that many readers can relate to. The author is at her best with the school scenes, with believable girl bullies and teacher misunderstandings. It is hard to hit exactly the right note when teenage peers are joking around, because language evolves so quickly, but the general sense is there. While Hamlet has a crush, that aspect of her life is not front and center, which makes her a more interesting heroine. The biggest misstep is that Desdemona, the seven-year-old genius, is portrayed like a small adult rather than a brilliant child. She comes across as more of a stubborn computer than a realistic person. I would not recommend this book for a child who is accelerated into a higher grade level than his/her age peers, since Desdemona is not very relatable. However, Hamlet's worries, protective instincts, and embarrassment are all extremely believable and well-crafted, so this would be a good book for siblings of extremely high-achieving younger students.

Topics and Themes for this book:

  • Drama; Acting; Shakespeare
  • School Relationships; Popularity; Social Issues
  • Finding Your Voice; Self-Confidence
  • Academically Advanced Younger Siblings; Grade Acceleration (grade-skipping)
  • Family Relationships

Discussion Questions for this book:

The best discussion questions, of course, are generated by and contemplated by readers. These questions are designed to avoid major spoilers about the book, and to provide a starting point for teachers, parents, and student reading groups.

**Questions coming soon**

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