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Don't Call Me Ishmael

Don't Call Me Ishmael

4.5 4
by Michael Gerard Bauer

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By the time ninth grade begins, Ishmael Leseur knows it won't be long before Barry Bagsley, the class bully, says, "Ishmael? What kind of wussy-crap name is that?” Ishmael's perfected the art of making himself virtually invisible. But all that changes when James Scobie joins the class. Unlike Ishmael, James has no sense of fear—he claims it was removed


By the time ninth grade begins, Ishmael Leseur knows it won't be long before Barry Bagsley, the class bully, says, "Ishmael? What kind of wussy-crap name is that?” Ishmael's perfected the art of making himself virtually invisible. But all that changes when James Scobie joins the class. Unlike Ishmael, James has no sense of fear—he claims it was removed during an operation.

Now nothing will stop James and Ishmael from taking on bullies, bugs, and Moby Dick, in the toughest, weirdest, most embarrassingly awful . . . and the best year of their lives.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal

Gr 8 Up- It's the start of Year Nine at St. Daniel's Boys School for 14-year-old narrator Ishmael Leseur. Suddenly made aware of his "wussy-crap" name (which he blames on his parents and, in turn, Herman Melville), wry, witty Ishmael expects to keep his head down, as he did the year before, around bully Barry Bagsley, who has become more aggressive. But the new year brings surprises-Miss Tarango, an inspiring young English teacher willing to stand up to Barry; an odd new student, James Scobie, who claims that an operation erased his ability to feel fear; a debate team, started by James, which makes friends out of an unlikely group of students; and a potential romance with a debater from a rival girls' school. Ishmael's voice is strong, funny, and compelling, and Australian writer Bauer brings some fantastic characters to life through snappy dialogue and vivid descriptions. The plot meanders, though, striking out in too many undeveloped directions; first Miss Tarango drops out of focus, then James Scobie and the protagonist's family, and the result is a read that, while unified by Ishmael's strong narrative voice and moments of laugh-out-loud humor, feels oddly pieced together and unsatisfying. Although readers may enjoy identifying with a bullied underdog who "gets the girl" at the end, the book doesn't quite live up to its early potential.-Riva Pollard, formerly at The Winsor School Library, Boston

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
With a name like Ishmael Leseur, one can imagine the amount of teasing the 14-year-old endures. His response is to try to make himself invisible so he can lessen the amount of sadistic bullying for which he's the target. Then along comes a strange new classmate-James Scobie, who is exceedingly bright yet frail. Ishmael ashamedly rejoices in the thought that he'll no longer be the number-one target now that the slightly offbeat James has arrived. Via brief, first-person chapters with funny titles, Bauer tells the tale of the developing friendship between James and Ishmael with great humor and sympathy, and he treats the familiar subject of bullying in a truthful way. James faces up to his persecutors without fear because, readers learn, he had a brain tumor removed-and what could be more frightening than that? While Ishmael and James are never totally free of bullies, the techniques they adopt are believable ones and eventually achieve the desired results. A brief scare concerning James's health allows Ishmael to finally stand up for himself and his friends. Bauer is a genius with similes and non-groan-worthy puns, resulting in an extremely amusing story. The combination of insults about Melville, great characters, humor, intelligence and the honest portrayal of bullying makes for a fantastic, all-encompassing read. (Fiction. 11-15)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.93(d)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Don't Call Me Ishmael

Chapter One

The Mayor of Loserville

There's no easy way to put this, so I'll just say it straight out. It's time I faced up to the truth. I'm fourteen years old, and I have Ishmael Leseur's Syndrome.

There is no cure.

Now, as far as I know, I'm the only recorded case of Ishmael Leseur's Syndrome in the world. In fact, the medical profession has probably never even heard of Ishmael Leseur's Syndrome. But it's real, believe me. The problem is, though, who would believe me?

For a while there, I guess I was in denial, but this year the symptoms have been just too painful and horrifying to ignore. And I'm not exaggerating here. No way. I'm telling you, Ishmael Leseur's Syndrome is capable of turning an otherwise almost normal person into a walking disaster registering nine point nine on the open-ended imbecile scale.

That's why I have decided to write all this down. Now everyone will finally understand the truth, and instead of electing me the mayor of Loserville, they'll simply shake their heads, smile kindly, and say, "It's all right. We understand. The poor boy has Ishmael Leseur's Syndrome. It's not his fault."

Anyway, maybe I'm getting ahead of myself here. I should really start at the beginning and go through things thoroughly—after all, I guess this needs to be approached scientifically if I'm to convince you that what I claim is true.

So, first things first. My name is Ishmael Leseur.

Now wait on, I know what you're going to say—I have the same name as my condition! You probably think I just invented it, so I can use it as an excusewhenever I make a complete fool of myself. But you don't get it. It's not that simple. You have to understand that the name is the condition—or at least part of it. I'm not absolutely sure on the precise details of how it works. After all, I am not a scientist. I'm just the victim here, but I do have my theories, and this is one of them.

Theory one: Ishmael Leseur's Syndrome is triggered by the release of a deadly virus that results from the combination of the words "Ishmael" and "Leseur."

Now, I have thought about this a lot, so let me explain some of my conclusions. As I see it, the individual letters by themselves are harmless. The combination of letters forming the separate words "Ishmael" and "Leseur" also seem relatively harmless. To illustrate this I refer to the other members of my immediate family: namely my father, Ron Leseur, insurance salesman and co-founder of the 1980s rock group the Dugongs; my mother, Carol Leseur, local councillor and chief family organizer; and my thirteen-year-old sister, Prue Leseur.

Now, as you can see, each of the above carries the name Leseur, yet I assure you that none of them suffers from any of the horrible symptoms you are about to hear described. In fact, I'd have to say, most of the time my mother and father seem painfully happy and content and, to rub it in, my sister, Prue—according to every friend, relative, and stranger who has ever set eyes on her—is "adorable." She also has an IQ somewhere near genius level. If brains were cars, Prue would be a Rolls-Royce while I would be a Goggomobil up on blocks with half its engine missing. And how do you think that makes me feel? Well, I'll tell you. Like the only person ever rejected for the job of village idiot, because he was waaaay overqualified. Or, as Prue so thoughtfully explained it to me one day, "Human beings use only ten percent of their brain, which would seem, in your case, Ishy, nowhere near enough."

So there you have it. The only conclusion you can possibly draw from my family's immunity to the syndrome is that it is triggered only by the fatal combination of the words "Ishmael" and "Leseur."

The way I see it is, the linking of these particular sounds must result in some kind of chemical reaction that germinates a virus, which then mutates the cells of the body, causing an increase in deadly toxins. These deadly toxins then infect the brain and nervous system, which results in the sufferer saying and doing things that would embarrass even a complete moron. I haven't quite been able to prove this theory yet; science is not my best subject. I'm much better at English, actually, but who wouldn't be with Miss Tarango as your teacher? But that's another story, and as Miss often reminds me, I have to watch my "structuring" when I write. Apparently I have a tendency to wander off the point.

Anyway, the point is, I didn't end up with Ishmael Leseur's Syndrome because of any chance combining of those two words. Oh no. I am who I am because of a deliberate act. You see, I know the circumstances surrounding the creation of my name in excruciating detail, and I know exactly who is responsible.

I will record their names now in this journal for all to see.

The ones who burdened me with the curse of Ishmael Leseur's were my parents. That's right, the aforementioned (this is an excellent word in a serious document such as this—Miss Tarango would approve) Ron and Carol Leseur. You can't blame them, of course. Parents are supposed to name their children. What happened wasn't their fault. They had no idea what a terrible thing they were doing.

Perhaps, though, I would find it a little easier to accept if they hadn't been laughing hysterically at the time they did it.

Don't Call Me Ishmael. Copyright © by Michael Bauer. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Michael Gerard Bauer, is is the award-winning author of Don't Call Me Ishmael. He has taught English and economics, and lives in the suburb of Ashgrove, Australia.

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Don't Call Me Ishmael 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book presents wise themes in an extremely entertaining way
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
peachdaisy More than 1 year ago
i read this in my school library, and i would have to say that this book is simply awesome, spunky, and fresh! i would read it over and over again if i had any free time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book,by it's originallity and how to stand up for youself ,for example if you see a bully taunting to a another person or yourself and teasing you or callling you a bad name, you should speak up tell that person to stop,if he or she would not listen to you . then you should get an adult for help. Or Just walk away. I recommended this book cause it tells you to learn how to cope with bullies.