I read this book on my nook and discovered a problem with ebooks: without the blurb, I didn’t get that this book was set in Australia until I looked up where the author is from because I was really confused. The kids are in year eight or whatever, but some of the other slang was wrong for it being in the UK. Not that this really detracted from my enjoyment of the book, but it was distracting.
I picked this book because of its title, a clear Moby-Dick reference, and because I’m on a mission to read more boy books. Ishmael Leseuer believes himself to be suffering from Ishmael Leseuer syndrome, a rare condition that causes him to pretty much have a terrible time–picked on at school by Barry Bagsley and his friends, constantly embarrassed by his dad telling the story of his name, and shown up by his little sister genius Prue. Don’t Call Me Ishmael is the story of his Year Nine campaign, the best and worst year of his life.
Ishmael has tried to get along by being as invisible as possible to Barry, but still has succeeded in acquiring a terrible bunch of nicknames, including Le Sewer and Manure. He knows he should stand up to Barry, but it takes the appearance of a new student to really put Barry in his place. James Scobie is that kid–a strange guy who has no fear after surviving brain cancer (why can’t I escape cancer books???). Able to put Barry in his place, pump up the entire school with a poem, and talk Ishmael into joining the debate team. And boy does debate turn out to be both a disaster and a triumph for Ishmael.
This book had me laughing out loud while I was reading out in public, always a good time. Ishmael learns that success isn’t always the same thing as victory and that his name might not be so bad after all. This is definitely a book I can see boys enjoying and one I can feel good about recommending.