Book Review: ‘Call It Courage’ by Armstrong Sperry

*Written in 2014.

When I was in 6th grade, my English teacher Mrs. Mahoney introduced me to Call It Courage, a phenomenal book by Armstrong Sperry.

Now I am not a parent but I would recommend this book to any and every adolescent. It is a tale of overcoming fear and finding one’s courage. It is one of the most well-written books I have read, regardless of its intended age group. It is actually a book that I still pick up and revisit every few years, as it is a quick and easy read but just as engaging now as it was to my sixth grade self.

The book follows a boy named Mafatu, the son of the king of a Pacific island. He has an immense fear of the sea and that fear makes his father ashamed of him. Mafatu’s fear is due to witnessing his mother die at sea when he was younger. Despite this, his father more or less disowns him and his tribe labels him a coward.

Mafatu runs away, taking a canoe out into the ocean to set sail, not knowing where he might end up. From that point on, the story becomes a great adventure of self-discovery, survival and self-reliance. Mafatu’s story is a good story for any young person to learn from.

Sperry’s writing is straightforward but very passionate. The tale he weaves is exciting and educational. In fact, here is a quote from Sperry himself about the subject matter of his book:

I had been afraid that perhaps in Call It Courage, the concept of spiritual courage might be too adult for children, but the reception of this book has reaffirmed a belief I have long held: that children have imagination enough to grasp any idea, and respond to it, if it is put to them honestly and without a patronizing pat on the head.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: When I was a kid, I used to read this a lot with Theodore Taylor’s The Cay and William Golding’s Lord of the Flies.

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