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Call It Courage

3.70  ·  Rating Details  ·  8,356 Ratings  ·  572 Reviews
Mafatu's name means "Stout Heart," but his people call him a coward. Ever since the sea took his mother's life and spared his own, he has lived with deep fear. And even though his father is the Great Chief of Hikueru -- an island whose seafaring people worship courage -- he is terrified, and so scorned.

By the time he is fifteen years old, Mafatu can bear
Paperback, 128 pages
Published May 1st 2003 by Aladdin Paperbacks (first published 1940)
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45th out of 95 books — 9 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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My 13 year-old son brought this book to me two days ago and said that it is one of his all time favorites. So I put it next to the computer to read when I finish "Toward the Gleam." He mentioned it again yesterday, so last night I took it with me to read at bedtime. He saw that I had it on my bedtime stack and picked it up and began telling me again how much he enjoyed this book. You could see the story play across his face as he held it almost reverently. So I put my novel away, and took the ti ...more
Shanna Gonzalez
Jun 26, 2009 Shanna Gonzalez rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: children-08-12
Mafatu, the ten-year-old son of a Polynesian chieftan, has always feared the sea because in his toddlerhood he and his mother were swept away by a storm in which his mother lost her life. As he approaches the edge of manhood, his fear prevents him from winning a place in his community. Realizing their indifference to him, he sets out to sea alone in his canoe, taking only his dog and a few tools. That night he is caught in a storm, in which he loses his paddle and all his tools, and he washes up ...more
Grace Kao
Jul 05, 2012 Grace Kao rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: middle-grade
I read this while reading middle-grade Newberry honor books for my student, and while this may have been good in the 1940s when it was published, the book definitely shows its age to modern readers. The entire book falls prey its the noble-savage action-adventure boys' serial tone, and Mafatu's struggle to gain courage does little to redeem it, as the struggle is quite easily overcome. There are also some parts where it became more difficult for me to suspend my disbelief (view spoiler) ...more
A delightful adventure, and a most deserving winner of the Newbery Award. Ten-year-old Mafatu, a boy from a Polynesian Island tribe, doesn’t seem to measure up to the standards set for being a “man” in his tribe. Most troublesome at all is his fear of the water. How can he grow up to be a powerful, confident, courageous chief if he is afraid to paddle out to sea and go fishing with the other boys? A wonderful tale of overcoming challenges and reaching through barriers to achieve your goals. Ever ...more
Oct 29, 2011 Ensiform rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, newbery
This Newbery winner tells of the trials of Mafatu, a fifteen-year-old Polynesian boy, the son of a chief. Due to a tragedy that took his mother when he was a baby, Mafatu has a great distrust of the sea, so one day he takes a small boat and, accompanied by his dog, forces himself to face his fears. After a storm, he washes up on an island of cannibals. While building a shelter and another boat, he also faces predators and then the return of the cannibals.

This slim story is, unfortunately, rather
Aug 12, 2012 Judy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Judy by: YLTO Monthly Reads
This children's classic does a wonderful job of portraying Polynesian island culture. I was disappointed in the illustrations since they are only blue and white and not the beautiful flamboyant colors of island life. The book itself took a little effort on my part to finish because it seemed unrealistic to me that a young boy who was almost an outcast of society because of his fear of water could all of sudden do an about-face, travel to another island, weather a storm and take care of himself. ...more
Sep 15, 2008 Wendy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: newbery
Meh. This is pretty much everything I dislike about what I thought of as "boy" books when I was a kid. It's like something that'd be published in BOY'S LIFE (the Boy Scout magazine). Definitely not better than THE LONG WINTER, which won an Honor that year.
Apr 22, 2009 Josiah rated it liked it
The best thing about this book (or at least tied for the best thing), in my view, is the breathtakingly expressive imagery that Armstrong Sperry SO creatively paints with throughout the story. It is like a literary fireworks show from beginning to end, as Armstrong Sperry takes the reader through the narrative and includes an awesome display of vocabulary and glittering superlative, to boot. His extraordinary use of language does for me the same thing that Holling C. Holling's illustrations acc ...more
The genre of the book is fiction.
Setting is the element because he doesn't stay at the same island, he goes to a foreign island and takes a spear, kills a boar,goes underwater to kill a shark and bring it back to his home island. All to prove he has courage.

i was not interested in this book because it was slow i never understood it,he had to go to many different places in order to murder creatures that could kill the boy, Mafatu to bring back to the island dead to prove to people that he is not
Regina Spiker
I haven't read Call It Courage, a juvenile Newbery Medal winner, in many a moon. A friend had returned it to the library and she left a note about how much she had enjoyed reading it as a child. So to refresh my memory - I reread it myself. This particular copy included the preserved original, beautiful blue and white illustrations.

Mafatu, 15 year old son of a Polynesian island chief, has had great loss in his life. His mother died when he was only three. Both had been at sea in their small cano
Feb 15, 2011 Emily rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I remember absolutely LOVING this book as a kid - the adventure and the suspense of Mafatu's plight. The book did not hold up to my memories of it. I found Sperry's descriptions rather flat and unengaging this time round, and found it difficult to keep up with the rapid changes in Mafatu's courage.

Another thing that bothered me about the book was that the two main conflicts were at the beginning and the end (the storm, and the arrival of the eaters-of-men). Both can be argued as conflicts as re
Sep 21, 2012 Jeff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
– I give this book to all my nephews, my friend’s kids, and of course to my son as soon as I think they are ready for it. It was the book that created my love of reading.

It is a Polynesian fable told through the eyes of a fifteen year old boy trying to overcome his fears and win the respect of his family and tribe. Mafatu, due to the loss of his mother, is afraid of the sea. He sits on the shore making and mending fishing nets while the other boys go out fishing to feed their families. Determi
Mashfee Alam
Armstrong Sperry did a greatjob on conveying a story in this book. It was quite inspirational and showed how to prove something, you must do it, however, this book was way too straight forward. It followed a simple tale of a boy trying to prove himself in a clan by taking a big risk. This makes the story less interesting and could've been much more expanded on into a more interesting story. The book also moved at a very fast pace which wasn't too good because the suspense didn't last very long a ...more
Sep 28, 2008 Tal rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
i was glad when this book was over ... sad. it had some good and interesting parts, but then there was a lot of dragging going on. then - suddenly something would happen. the book just wasn't laid out very well. i don't think any of my students will read this book, let alone enjoy it. i could be wrong though.
Oct 01, 2008 Amber rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was glad when this book was over sad , but true. it had some good and interesting parts, but then there was a lot of dragging going on. Then suddenly something would happen. the book just wasn't laid out very well.
Jun 09, 2015 Ariane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Boy is ridiculed for his fear of the ocean (had killed his mother and almost him when he was little - but I guess you don't get a break just for that!). Boy sets out into the ocean on his own and somehow finds crazy courage to: survive an ocean journey, survive on an island alone, kill wild a pig, shark, and octopus, escape cannibals, survive an ocean journey home, . . . Kind of made finding the courage seem a little too easy.

I did use this book as inspiration in my own courage-seeking today - t
May 31, 2014 Constance rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I missed this classic entirely. A student came looking for it in the library and I didn't have it. A mistake I quickly corrected! I knew of it, but confused it with Jean Craighead George's, My Side of the Mountain. Call it Courage has a mythic and bold storytelling tone; like gather around the fire and listen to this tale. Imagine being the child of a coach and being scared or even terrified to play a game? That's Mafatu. He's the son of a warrior and he's a scared boy: scared of the sea, scared ...more
Jan 10, 2012 Jesse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
"Call It Courage" was written several decades ago and to me is very primal because of the simplistic narrative it employs. I have read complaints from readers that it was simpleminded and that nothing happened between the beginning and the end. Obviously, I am generalizing what others have said.

As feebleminded as it may sound, the language is appropriate because it is near to the true voice of the character of Mafatu. However, I'm sure he wouldn't be speaking English, but that's beside the point
Vanessa Maeda
Nov 19, 2012 Vanessa Maeda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Main Characters: Mafatu, Uri, and Kivi
Setting: Pacific Islands
POV: narrator


Mafatu, the main character, is a young Polynesian boy who suffered the death of his mother very early in his life. Mafatu fears the sea due to his mothers death but throughout the book, Mafatu tries to overcome the tragedy and conquer his fear. He takes fate into his hands and decides to go out into the sea in search of courage and bravery that will ultimately help him become a warrior and in order to gain the res
Oct 18, 2014 Tarma rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Call it a (mercifully) short story about a kid who needs to be courageous, so he runs out and does a bunch of stuff that he was totally too scared to do but is somehow magically okay with all of a sudden, after maybe a sentence of "ooh wait I'm scared... nah, I'm okay!" I dunno, maybe you need to read it as a kid to really fall in love with it, but I found this book impossible to connect to. The main character's only personality trait was his cowardice, which as I mentioned wanders off for a lon ...more
This was my moms favorite book when she was young and so she told me to read it. I loved it. It's an amazing adventure story. It draws you in and you get lost in the context, the atmosphere, and the adventure. It's deffinitly one of those books that you never want to end.

It keeps you on the edge of your seat the entire time, and it makes you feel like you are there running for your life from bloodthirsty cannibals.

Not only is it a great adventure story but it's a leason of getting over your fear
Nov 02, 2014 Mikala rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
My dad first read me Call it Courage when I was five, and when I found it on his bookshelf, I decided to read it again. It's a very easy book to read, but the story is enjoyable, and the descriptions are very detailed. The story is a little dated, because the book is 65 years old, but idea of a hero story is a timeless idea, and I think this book is too.
Andy Lee
Feb 23, 2011 Andy Lee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-fiction
Call It Courage is a good book about a boy who faces his fears in the form of his peers, family, and nature.

The hero of the book lost his mother in a stormy wave out at sea and ever since has feared the sea as if it was wanting to take him as well.

His tribe mates make fun of him, his father is somewhat ashamed of him, and he his only friends are a dog and a bird he nursed as a baby.

When all boys in the tribe go out to the sea, Mafatu builds up the courage to join them. In going, he gets caught i
Logan Erdmann
This book will entertaing and I would recommend it to students in high school that are looking for a shorter adventure book. The beginning really explains the reasons why the boy ,Mafatu, leaves his home island. It shows connections between the human and spiritual world with all the praises to different gods by the young boy. Mafatu's only friends are his dog and a pet bird that he nutured back to health. He feels shame in his village for being forced to do "womens work". This book also shows ho ...more
Dec 30, 2014 Taylor rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had to read this book for school purposes. Since most books that I have to read for school are terrible, I wasn't expecting this to be a great book. It isn't my favourite but it definitely isn't my least favourite. At first it was slow and kind of boring but then it got interesting. It was a good book considering it was read for school purposes:)
Hiba Siddiqui
Jun 13, 2014 Hiba Siddiqui rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amazing book about a boy who faces his fears and becomes a hero in the eyes of his people
Angelica McDonald
Oct 29, 2015 Angelica McDonald rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 13-25
Mufatu is the son of the chief on the tiny, impoverished island of Hikeru. To be considered a man, a boy must fish and hunt for the village, he must be brave and full of courage. Mufatu, who's name means "stout heart", unfortunately, is afraid of the sea. The ocean took his mother when he was three and he was found several days later on a small reef, barely alive. Since then, he feels the god of the sea wishes to take his revenge. The people in the village unfortunately do not see it like that. ...more
Jose Chipoco
Mar 03, 2015 Jose Chipoco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Call it Courage is a lively and succinct depiction of Polynesian culture through the eyes of a boy who seeks his courage.

The book is a product of its time and is certainly written through a Western lens looking at Polynesian culture. The success of the book lies in its simplicity. The story follows a very linear progression that is easy to follow and is familiar to a Western audience with a basic understanding of the hero's journey. Yet, the writing is expressive and conveys the struggle that th
Joe Paul
Feb 20, 2015 Joe Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
We begin this captivating story alongside young Mafatu as he recounts his tragic history with the ocean. His life has been grief stricken and his decisions have come solely from his pain and their accompanying fears. There is nothing in Mafatu's life that you could call courage, but as he grows and comes to age he decides that his life and role must change. He must take his life into his own hands and face his fears. He must face the Moana, the Sea God and everything she sends to destroy him. Wi ...more
Maddy Gazo
Call it Courage was a decent book. It is a good story for a historical fiction book. I really liked all of the action that was going on through the book. I disliked the part where there was too much going on and it got confusing and you had to reread parts.

In the book, Mafatu is afraid of the ocean. As a young member of the tribe on the island Hikueru, people who sails and fishes are a fundamental way of life, Mafatu’s fear is a major social set down. Although he experienced the great trauma at
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Courage 2 3 Feb 04, 2016 05:03PM  
Children's Books: The Medal Winner from 1941 - July 2015 - Call it Courage 13 30 Aug 04, 2015 10:33AM  
  • Dobry
  • Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze
  • Daniel Boone
  • Gay Neck: The Story of a Pigeon
  • Tales From Silver Lands
  • ...And Now Miguel
  • Shen of the Sea: Chinese Stories for Children
  • Waterless Mountain
  • Shadow Of A Bull
  • The White Stag
  • The Dark Frigate
  • Roller Skates
  • A Visit to William Blake's Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers
  • Miss Hickory
  • Secret of the Andes
  • The Story of Mankind
  • Adam of the Road
  • Amos Fortune, Free Man
Author and illustrator, he won the Newbery Award in 1941 for Call It Courage.
More about Armstrong Sperry...

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