Saturday, March 27, 2010
The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet by Erin Dionne
This is the first book I've read by Erin Dionne, and it reminded me a lot of books by Lisa Yee, especially the Millicent Min series. (That's a compliment, by the way.) I definitely think this book would appeal to Yee fans, although it could be read by kids who are slightly older as well.
Hamlet Kennedy's parents are a) Shakespeare fanatics and b) oblivious to the possibility that if you name your daughter "Hamlet" she will likely get a lot of grief from her fellow eighth graders. That's around the level of angst Hamlet has to deal with--social anxiety triggered by things like her genius seven year old sister being placed in eighth grade with her, and being afraid that her best friend has a crush on her, and not wanting to play the role of Puck in the "Shakespeare Celebration" at school because she's kind of saturated by the Bard at home. When her parents come to her school in full Elizabethan costume, and get her classmates to march around the room to a tambourine and chanting in iambic pentameter, well, you can just imagine. It's all frustrating and embarrassing, and to Hamlet it seems like a Very Big Deal. But like Yee, Dionne puts in lots of positive counterpoints; Hamlet and her sister Desdemona really do care about each other, her friends are goofy but nice, the crush thing turns out to be a misunderstanding, and her parents become more aware of their "embarrassment potential" by the end and adjust their behavior accordingly. Although, personally, I never worry too much about embarrassing my daughter. I figure that's my perogative as a Mom.
By the way, thanks to my daughter, I can tell that the sneakers Hamlet is wearing are Converse. I know because we just shelled out for exactly the same pair for Katrina (in lemon yellow rather than turquoise). So really, her parents can't really be that out of it.