Don’t Call Me Ishmael
By Michael Gerard Bauer
Published by Greenwillow Books
Copyright © 2007
“Call me Ishmael”, so begins the classic novel by Herman Melville. Ishmael might have been considered normal in good old Herman’s day but today, at the very least, it qualifies as interesting and it just might cause a syndrome when paired with the name Leseur.
At St. Daniels boy’s school, somewhere in suburban Australia, Ishmael Leseur is in his ninth year of school. By his seventh year he had learned that a name like his is like social death, because it causes large football playing jocks to stretch their vocabulary to say it. So they come up with easier alternatives such as “Fishtail Le Sewer” or “Fish-whale Manure”. Ishmael decided a long time ago to stay out of the spotlight. Don’t do anything to get noticed and it will lessen the likelihood of having to deal with Barry Bagsley – was his main coping device. But then James Scobie came to St. Daniels; the self-proclaimed boy with no fear. And even though he was small and quite the nerd, amazingly enough he really didn’t have any fear. With the help of James, his new English teacher, and a couple of new friends Ishmael not only learns how to have no fear, but also just how much power the English language has. Unfortunately, Barry Bagsley will push him into discovering just how to use that power of words. Will he use it for good, or will he use it for evil?
Though the situations aren’t as extreme as many students face today, “Don’t Call Me Ishmael” expresses how difficult it can be to deal with a bully. It shows students standing up to a bully in a non-violent way. While this won’t always be successful it shows that no one should be living in fear especially at school. It also shows that it is okay to be yourself, and the importance of having friends who accept you for who you are.