Posted by: Debbie Kahl | July 17, 2011

Ishmael and the Hoops of Steel by Michael Gerard Bauer

I’m just going to put this out there – it’s really hard to start this review. Half of me is beyond excited that the new Ishmael book is finally here, but the other half is sad because this is the end of one of my favourite literary characters. Well, not the end because Ishmael will definitely live on in the hearts and minds of all who’ve followed his journey but you get what I mean. After this there will be no more Ishmael, unless we can talk MGB into Ishamel and the Uni years but I doubt it. In fact, Hoops of Steel does such a great job of wrapping up the series that I think MGB has made a great decision to finish it exactly as he has.

So, just what is this series I’m raving about? Well, through my day job I stumbled upon an amazing book titled Don’t Call Me Ishmael when it was released in 2006. Here, we are introduced to fourteen year old Ishmael Leseur, sole sufferer to Ishmael Leseur Syndrome, and his gang of misfit friends as they suffer through grade nine at St Daniel’s Boys College. But it’s the voice of Ishmael; a humble, socially awkward, victim of bullying, that makes this series the success that it is. The sequel Ishmael and Return of the Dugongs was released in 2007, and it follows the adventures of Ishmael and his mates in grade ten.

And now here we are, full circle with Ishmael and the Hoops of Steel, which incorporates Ishmael’s senior years at St Daniel’s. Ishmael is still the same socially awkward teenager who enthralls readers with his embarrassing adventures as he navigates his way through the minefield known as adolescence. The mates are still misfits, Kelly is still Ishmael’s dream girl – although Razz’s cousin Cindy Sexton might have something to say about that – and the boys all band together for Operation Tarango as they attempt to win the college cup for their favourite teacher. Two years of adventures all rolled into one – including an unforgettable Shakespeare unit on Hamlet, a cyber-peeping tom incident and hula-hooping as a weight loss strategy – Hoops of Steel is classic, funny and original, everything we’ve come to expect in an Ishmael book and more!

For all fans of MGB and Ishmael Leseur, this is the must-read, not to be missed, go and buy it now rather than reading this review, finale. If you have been unlucky enough to have missed Ishmael and his high school adventures and you love YA fiction, please do yourself a favour and read this series. Go all the way back to book one, Don’t Call Me Ishmael and start from the beginning, you won’t be disappointed – I promise! No-one does teenage boy humour as well as MGB and, although it is bittersweet that this is the last of Ishmael and nothing will ever replace them, I’m sure there will be many more MGB books to keep us entertained in the future.

And don’t miss our interview with Michael Gerard Bauer on the Ishmael series coming soon to WLYA. But until then, happy Ishamel reading everyone! 🙂



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  2. Thanks for the recommendation/review, Deb. I’ll make a point to read the series.


  3. Ishmael is a crack up, you learn to feel for the guy because everyone at one stage or another has been that “awkward” school kid. But he seems to cop more than his fair share. Can’t wait to read this one!

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