Call It Courage
by Armstrong Sperry
The winner of the 1941 Newbery Medal is one of the shortest books to achieve that honor. It is a very simple, direct, and powerful story
about a fifteen-year-old Polynesian boy facing his fears and proving his courage. Told by an author who specialized in sea adventures for
young readers, it claims to relate a story that has been sung over the evening fires on the island of Hikueru for many, many centuries.
Mafatu is a chiefs son in a culture where a man is nothing if he is not brave. And nothing is exactly what Mafatu is turning out to be.
Ever since a near-death experience at sea when he was three years old, the boy has had a terror of the sea. This is no small problem when
you live on a small, flat island in the Pacific, with little to eat but what comes out of the sea. A disappointment to his father, and
despised by all the young men of the island, Mafatu finally realizes that he has to go away to test his courage against the dangers of the
So Mafatu sails away in a frail canoe with his faithful dog Uri and the occasional company of an albatross. He confronts a storm at sea,
shipwreck on a desert isle, dangerous animals on land and water, and many other perils in his quest to prove himself against Moana, the
The story is partly a portrait of a fascinating way of life, partly an exciting adventure, and partly a touching study of a young mans
quest for self-respect. It is told in such a clean-cut way, with a hint of ritual to remind you that this story is sung over the evening
fires, that I think you will remember it for a long time.
Recommended Age: 10+
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