Monthly Archives: November 2014

‘CALL IT COURAGE’ BY ARMSTRONG SPERRY

‘Call It Courage’ is an award-winning children’s novel written by Armstrong Sperry. It tells the story of a young boy who sets out on a journey in order to overcome his deepest fear.

CALL IT COURAGE

Summary

Since witnessing his mother die, Mafatu has been afraid of the ocean. As the son of the Great Chief of Hikueru, a race of Polynesians who worship courage, he is expected to be brave and fearless; only he is not. Branded a coward, he doesn’t get much sympathy from his tribe.

Not being able to bear the situation anymore, Mafatu is desperate to face his demons and prove everyone wrong. He takes his canoe and together with his companions – a dog named Uri and an albatross, Kivi – ventures out to the sea, knowing that he will either come back as a hero, or he won’t come back at all.

Review

This extremely short story is an excellent read for children and adults alike. It’s a classic tale of self-determination which shows and reminds you that you’re able to achieve anything you want; you just have to believe and find that inner strength that gives you courage to conquer your fears. This timeless message appeals to readers nowadays as much as it did in 1940s, when the book was first published.

The universal theme presented in the novel is naturally the main reason why people – both young and old – reach for this title. But, truth be told, it wouldn’t be so attractive if Armstrong Sperry hadn’t constructed it in such a clever way.

The story takes place in the South Seas and this alluring tropical setting definitely seizes the imagination. Right from the beginning you are transported to the magical world, with the most intriguing culture saturated with legends, myths, and folk tales. The author introduces Polynesian gods and sends his character to the island of the ‘black eaters of men’. For some readers those frequent references to certain practices and pagan beliefs may be quite bothering, especially taking into account that this is juvenile literature. However, all of them seem amply justified, as they only enhance the mysterious atmosphere of the old days. Moreover, they are so neatly woven into the narrative that their presence certainly does not overwhelm the story itself.

The novel is exceptionally well paced; it isn’t tedious or mundane, so it makes a wonderful and engaging read for adventure-loving children. Also worthy of note is the beautiful language that intensifies the overall experience and teaches youngsters to appreciate the poetry of the written word. With his vivid descriptions, Armstrong Sperry brings the ancient times to life, giving you a chance to discover the fascinating past of the Blue Continent.

‘Call It Courage’ is one of not so many children’s books set in the Pacific Islands. This fact alone should be a sufficient justification for purchasing this title. If it isn’t, let me just tell you that this thoroughly enchanting novel is not only a promise of enjoyment, but also a great source of inspiration that motivates readers to follow their dreams and overcome whatever obstacle stands in their way.

BEST READ-MORE-THAN-ONCE BOOKS

‘Scar of the Bamboo Leaf’ by Sieni A.M.

This incredible story of love between a physically-flawed artist girl and a troubled, misunderstood boy is nothing short of – I dare to say – a masterpiece.

Right from the very first page, the novel grabs your attention and doesn’t let go. A few chapters later, it touches your heart and starts messing with your feelings. The next thing you know, you’re officially hooked. Lush Samoan settings; more than believable characters; well-written, well-paced, thoroughly engaging narrative; words that make you think. What more could you wish for? It is a stunning book. Complex, poignant, thought-provoking, deeply moving. Just beautiful.

‘We Are the Ocean’ by Epeli Hauʻofa

This is an exquisite collection of exquisite essays, public lectures, and poems, in which Epeli Hauʻofa shares his thoughts concerning Pasifika – the great sea of islands.

Written with passion and genuine love for Oceania, the publication can be regarded as unique – truly unique – teaching material. It informs and educates. It enlightens. It inspires. The author’s words, opinions, and ideas are of great significance and should definitely be pondered upon. What can I say, this book is a keeper!

‘Attitude 13: A Daughter of Guam’s Collection of Short Stories’ by Tanya Taimanglo

Tanya Taimanglo’s tales offer a rare and most fascinating glimpse into the lives of various Chamorro people, who try to reconcile their traditions and heritage with modernity.

Even if you read this book hundreds of times, you always discover something new: an inspirational passage, a conveyed between the lines message, a hidden meaning of the story. The narratives are a great reminder of those eternal truths we tend to forget. But, most importantly, they are also a sheer delight to read. Beautifully written, embellished with vivid imagery and a gentle sense of humour, they take you on a wonderful journey to the island of Guam. And – I should mention this – it’s a journey you don’t want to end.

‘Sons for the Return Home’ by Albert Wendt

This story of a cross-racial romance between a Samoan student at Auckland University and a girl from a wealthy pālagi family is one of the most important works in the history of Pacific Literature.

It is a cleverly constructed page-turner, which keeps you riveted from the very first to the very last sentence. Most likely, it is the result of Albert Wendt’s terse, unornamented writing style – thoroughly charming (oh yes, it is charming!) and totally unique. With this ‘shortness’, this lack of descriptive language the author gets right to the point, making the novel all the more powerful. One of the best reads ever; absolutely.

‘Tales of the South Pacific’ by James A. Michener

A Pulitzer Prize-winning book must be extraordinary. And this collection of interconnected stories about World War II certainly is.

Michener’s novel is an emotional roller-coaster ride; thrilling, quite nerve-racking, at times disturbing. And yet it makes you want to come back for more. The war-torn ‘paradise’, the complex characters, the South Seas atmosphere… Some say it’s a good book. I say it’s truly a literary classic. James Michener at his best.