‘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.



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.


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.

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