Don’t Call Me Ishmael


Michael Gerard Bauer

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Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Greenwillow Books edition of Don’t Call Me Ishmael published in 2007.
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Chapter 1 Quotes

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 excuse whenever 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.

Related Characters: Ishmael Leseur (speaker)
Page Number: 2
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

And if it hadn’t been my terrible fate to end up as Ishmael Leseur, then none of the disasters of my life would have happened and today I would be a happy normal teenager, like everyone else my age.

Related Characters: Ishmael Leseur (speaker), Bill Kingsley, Ignatius Prindabel, James Scobie
Related Symbols: Moby-Dick
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

“Ishmael? What kind of a wussy-crap name is that?”

What could I say? Up to this point in my life I hadn’t even known it was a wussy-crap name. No one had warned me that I had a wussy-crap name. Why would my parents give me a wussy-crap name in the first place? Was Herman Melville aware it was a wussy-crap name?

Related Characters: Barry Bagsley (speaker), Ishmael Leseur (speaker), Mom, Dad
Related Symbols: Moby-Dick
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

It soon became obvious to every Year Eight that if you wanted to survive your stay at St. Daniel’s Boys School relatively unscathed, there were only two courses of action open to you: either avoid Barry Bagsley at all costs, which was what the majority chose to do, or risk the road less traveled and seek out the dangerous safety of Barry Bagsley’s inner circle of “friends.”

Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

“You see how powerful language can be, boys? Even a little word like ‘before’ can hurt you if you don’t treat it with respect and listen carefully.”

Related Characters: Miss Tarango (speaker), Barry Bagsley, Ishmael Leseur
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

Every atom in my body told me that this was one of those times when the sensible thing to do was to make myself small. A few backward steps and I would be out of sight. Then I could forget all about Barry Bagsley and his mob. But that was just it. I could forget about the rest of them, but I couldn’t get the kid out of my mind. I won’t lie. I’m no hero. I wanted to turn around and run. I wanted to make myself small. I wanted to disappear. The problem was, I had the terrible feeling that if I did, I might not ever be able to find myself again.

Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 14 Quotes

The class stared at James Scobie. Something wasn’t right here. This wasn’t the way things went. When Barry Bagsley threatened you, you backed down. That’s just the way it was; the way it had always been. You couldn’t just go changing things—just doing what you want. The whole room was one big furrowed brow. Something was happening here—we just weren’t quite sure what it was.

Related Characters: Ishmael Leseur (speaker), James Scobie, Barry Bagsley
Page Number: 64
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 18 Quotes

As for Barry Bagsley, rumor had it that Brother Jerome had given him the “last warning” speech. In any case, when he finally returned to class, he was as sullen as a caged animal, a bit like the T-rex at the beginning of Jurassic Park, trapped inside that steel enclosure with a zillion volts of electricity zinging through the wires (which was fine by me). The only trouble was, I kept thinking that when you watch a movie like that, you just know that eventually, for some reason or another, someone or something will turn the electricity off.

Related Characters: Ishmael Leseur (speaker), Barry Bagsley, James Scobie, Brother Jerome
Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:

“Now, some of you may feel that debating is for wimps. I’m here to tell you that you are wrong. Research shows that most people are more afraid of speaking in public than they are of dying. Debating is not for wimps. It’s for boys with courage. That’s right, courage—the courage and commitment to stand up and perform under pressure.”

Related Characters: James Scobie (speaker), Barry Bagsley
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 25 Quotes

Even though we had improved from last time, the difference again was Scobie. It was like having Michael Phelps swimming the final leg for you in the under-seven floaties relay. As long as we could keep the opposition vaguely in sight, we knew that Scobie would reel them in and eat them up.

Page Number: 133
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 27 Quotes

“Sort of…the tumor, the operation…they’re true. The other thing…not being afraid…Well, it depends on how you look at it. Maybe it wasn’t a scalpel that did it. Maybe…when you’re lying in an operating room and someone is cutting into your brain…and you don’t know whether you’re going to…”

For a few seconds all I could hear was Scobie breathing. When he continued, it was almost in a whisper.

“Well…maybe there’s just so much fear you can have…and in that one moment you use up all the fear you were ever supposed to feel…and it’s the fear that cuts you…and it cuts you so deep that you decide that nothing else is worth being afraid of…and that nothing is going to scare you anymore…because you just won’t let it.”

Related Characters: James Scobie (speaker), Ishmael Leseur, Barry Bagsley
Page Number: 140
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 35 Quotes

“Well, I guess you could say that part of it’s about how power can be used in a good way or a bad way, and you could tie that to things like the power that big companies or politicians or dictators have today, I suppose. And Harry himself faces a lot of problems that I reckon would be relevant to a lot of people—you know, like coping with death and trying to fit in when you’re different…and bullying.”

Page Number: 175
Explanation and Analysis:

“Oh, and Orazio…I know we’re not headed for Mount Doom or anything, but we are on a bit of a quest, aren’t we? Maybe we’re even some sort of a fellowship.”

Razza sprawled back in his seat and shook his head slowly from side to side as if nothing made sense to him anymore. Finally he stood up, leaned over the table, and placed his hand on Bill’s shoulder.

I held my breath. I had a terrible feeling that Orazio Zorzotto’s razor-sharp wit was about to slice Bill Kingsley in two.

Razza fixed his eyes on the large form before him. “I will follow you,” he said solemnly, “my brother…my captain…my…Kingsley.”

Related Characters: Bill Kingsley (speaker), Orazio “Razza” Zorzotto (speaker), Ishmael Leseur, Ignatius Prindabel
Page Number: 178
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 36 Quotes

Razza nudged me in the ribs and jerked his head toward Bill Kingsley, who was gazing into space beside him. I knew what Razza was getting at. Bill looked different somehow. It must have been the smile on his face.

Related Characters: Ishmael Leseur (speaker), Bill Kingsley, Orazio “Razza” Zorzotto
Page Number: 184
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 38 Quotes

I looked at Bill. I remembered his face after that last debate. Now he looked numb and broken.

I ripped the certificate from the desk. “That’s it. I’m taking this to Barker.”

“No, Ishmael, don’t!”

Related Characters: Ishmael Leseur (speaker), Bill Kingsley (speaker), Barry Bagsley
Page Number: 194
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 39 Quotes

“Why can’t you just leave him alone?”

“Maybe I don’t want to. Are you going to make me?”

And there it was. The question we’d all been waiting for. The question whose answer I knew, and Barry Bagsley knew, was no. I looked at the smug, arrogant face before me, a face without a shadow of a doubt that it had nothing in the world to fear. I hated it and I hated how it was making me feel. I wanted to blow it away.

Related Characters: Ishmael Leseur (speaker), Barry Bagsley (speaker), Bill Kingsley
Page Number: 197
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 40 Quotes

“What’s he like?”

“My father?”

“No—Ishmael—the person you’re named after.”

“Oh yeah, right,” I said, feeling like a dork.


“What…oh…I don’t know what he’s like. I’ve never read it.”

“Really? You haven’t read it? How come? If I was named after someone in a book, I’d definitely want to read it to find out what they were like. You know, see if I was like them.”

Related Characters: Ishmael Leseur (speaker), Kelly Faulkner (speaker)
Related Symbols: Moby-Dick
Page Number: 207
Explanation and Analysis:

And then it happened. Kelly Faulkner laughed, and her beautiful pale eyes melted my heart like ice cream in a microwave till all that remained was an awful empty feeling. That’s when I knew. Nothing would happen between us. I’d been kidding myself. It just wasn’t possible for eyes as beautiful as that to see anyone as ordinary as me. For the first time, I didn’t feel like a nervous wreck in Kelly Faulkner’s presence. What did I have to worry about?

Related Characters: Ishmael Leseur (speaker), Kelly Faulkner, James Scobie
Page Number: 209
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 41 Quotes

The second thing I decided to do was ask Dad if I could borrow his copy of Moby-Dick. “Aaarrgh, me hearty,” he said, rolling his eyes crazily, “ye be seeking the white whale!”

I wasn’t, though. I be seeking Ishmael.

Related Characters: Ishmael Leseur (speaker), Dad (speaker), Kelly Faulkner, Barry Bagsley
Related Symbols: Moby-Dick
Page Number: 215
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 42 Quotes

But there was someone else onboard the Pequod who I could relate to. Maybe I hadn’t lost my leg to a great white whale like he had, but I understood what it was like to have a part of yourself torn away, and I also knew how much you could grow to hate whoever or whatever it was that had taken that part from you. I knew all about that, because every time Barry Bagsley taunted me and ground my name into the dirt, and every time he paid out on Bill Kingsley and I did nothing, it felt like there was much more of me missing than just a limb. But was I really like Ahab? Did I crave revenge like him? Would I really like to hunt down Barry Bagsley and harpoon him and make him suffer for what he had done?

You bet.

Related Characters: Ishmael Leseur (speaker), Bill Kingsley, Barry Bagsley
Related Symbols: Moby-Dick
Page Number: 218
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 45 Quotes

I let my eyes drift over the words. They seemed so simple, so harmless—just marks on a page. I read them to myself for the hundredth time.

Let us pray that Barry Bagsley can learn to let other people be themselves instead of bullying them and putting them down all the time.

Related Characters: Ishmael Leseur (speaker), Barry Bagsley
Page Number: 235
Explanation and Analysis:

I could tell she was asking if he was alright. It had to be Mrs. Bagsley, but it didn’t seem possible. It was hard enough imagining Barry Bagsley with a mother at all (surely he was thrown together in some dingy rat-infested laboratory) let alone one who looked…well…nice.

Related Characters: Ishmael Leseur (speaker), Barry Bagsley, Mrs. Bagsley
Page Number: 237
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 46 Quotes

But there was another reason why I couldn’t go through with it. It was that look on Barry Bagsley’s face, the one that I had put there, the one that reminded me of Kelly Faulkner’s little brother, of Bill Kingsley, and of myself. I didn’t want to be the kind of person that made people look like that. No matter who they were.

Related Characters: Ishmael Leseur (speaker), Barry Bagsley, Bill Kingsley, Marty/The Boy
Page Number: 240
Explanation and Analysis:

I heard a strange noise come from deep within Bill Kingsley. It took me a moment to realize that he was laughing.

Razza looked back at me, flashed that deadly smile, and gave me the thumbs-up.

They were right all along. The Razzman really did work in mysterious ways.

Related Characters: Ishmael Leseur (speaker), Orazio “Razza” Zorzotto, Bill Kingsley
Page Number: 245
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 50 Quotes

But do you want to know the really weird thing? Well, I’ll tell you. The really weird thing was that as I lay there with only the raspy sound of my breathing filling my ears and with the spongy grass of St. Daniel’s playing fields buoying me up, I could have sworn that I was floating and bobbing on the surface of a vast green ocean. Remind you of anyone?

Go on—call me Ishmael if you like.

After all, as the Big Z would say, I’m da man!

Related Symbols: Moby-Dick
Page Number: 255
Explanation and Analysis:
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