There aren’t many Young Adult books I want to read more than once. Don’t Call Me Ishmael is one I’ve read three times.
I’m in awe of Michael Gerard Bauer’s writing skill. The book dealt with a topic I feel passionately about: bullying. Bauer had me in a constant ripple of laughter, without detracting at all from the serious theme.
Ishmael, the main character, is in Year Nine, and tormented by a bully named Bagsley. How Ishmael copes, the friends he makes, the embarrassment, the fear and the triumphs, combine into a compelling story. Bauer has Ishmael’s voice down pat. I also admired his writerly eye for detail, and his obvious understanding of what it’s like to be a bully’s target.
Published by Omnibus (Scholastic), in 2006, Don’t Call Me Ishmael is one of my very favourite books. It would make a great text for study at high school level, with so many possibilities for discussion. It would also be a wonderful book to read aloud to anyone who loves humour. Don't just take the Book Chook's word for it, read an excerpt online.
What's it like to be bullied? What's it like to be a bully? What's the difference between teasing and bullying? What can we do if we are being bullied? There is immensely helpful information about coping with bullying on the internet. We need to discuss bullying with our kids and remind them they are not alone.
The torment of being bullied has led to some terrible tragedies. I believe anything we can do to root it out of our society is worthwhile.
(Find more Book Chook activities and tips to encourage literacy at www.susanstephenson.com.au)