The Captain’s Log – call it courage (Armstrong Sperry)

Ahoy there me mateys!  This be the second read in me April BookBum Club Challenge!  This read is long overdue.  Ye see it all stems from a post I read from me matey Jackie @ deathbysundoku back in October 2017.  She be on the Great Newbery quest wherein she be reading all Newbery medal winners by January 2022 when the 100th Newbery Award happens!  Worthy goal indeed.  I meself had embarked on this journey many years ago before adverse winds and scads of other adventures sent me off course.  I had managed 24 of them at last count. 

So this be number 25.  Arrrr!  As always I love me sea yarns.  This one is short but sweet.  It is the story of Maftu who grows up on an island.  A childhood mishap caused him (rightly) to be afraid of the sea.  Due to the fact that the sea supports the livelihood of the tribe, Maftu is known as a coward.  The day comes where he resolves to face his fears.  So he steals a canoe and takes off with his trusty dog companion to sail on the sea only to be thrust into an even bigger adventure.  Can he face his fears, learn to accept himself, and survive long enough to make it back home?

As me matey Jackie says, “Yes, this 1940 Newbery Award winner certainly has some representation issues. Yes, Call It Courage does play on all the noble-savage action-adventure boy serial tropes, such as those in the Tarzan serials. Yes, it portrays sexism, bullying, and submitting to peer pressure in a positive light. Yes, it does fall into a bit of a predictable storytelling mode where our protagonist magically conquers everything.”

That said, I also very much enjoyed this tale when cultural context is taken into account.  Ye cheer on Maftu in his journey and come to respect his resourcefulness, hard work, and fortitude.  From the modern perspective, it is interesting to note that Maftu would not have survived his ordeal if he hadn’t mastered the “women’s work” that is scorned by the men of the tribe.

The author was well known for his travels to the South Seas and the stories he brought back.  The tale of Maftu was one such tale that was still told around the fires of the Polynesian islands.  One of the highlights of the book were the author’s own illustrations.  He became known for this artwork and illustrated over 40 books and magazines. His pictures of Maftu adventures and island life were wonderful.  Like this one:

I do think all readers could find something to enjoy in this tale.  I highly encourage all the crew to read Jackie’s review because it is basically perfect in its representation of the book and its impact.

Much thanks to the BookBum Club for giving me the incentive to finally read this delightful “short and sweet” book (128 pgs).  Day two – challenge complete!  Next up: phoresis.  Check out that review tomorrow!

Side note: For the list of all the Newbery award winners and the ones I have read thus far check out me Newbery page!

Goodreads has this to say about the novel:

A boy tries to overcome his fear of the sea in this treasured classic and winner of the Newbery Medal.

Maftu was afraid of the sea. It had taken his mother when he was a baby, and it seemed to him that the sea gods sought vengeance at having been cheated of Mafatu. So, though he was the son of the Great Chief of Hikueru, a race of Polynesians who worshipped courage, and he was named Stout Heart, he feared and avoided tha sea, till everyone branded him a coward. When he could no longer bear their taunts and jibes, he determined to conquer that fear or be conquered– so he went off in his canoe, alone except for his little dog and pet albatross. A storm gave him his first challenge. Then days on a desert island found him resourceful beyond his own expectation. This is the story of how his courage grew and how he finally returned home. This is a legend. It happened many years ago, but even today the people of Hikueru sing this story and tell it over their evening fires.

To visit the author’s website go to:

Armstrong Sperry – Author

To buy the novel go to:

call it courage – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

Previous BookBum Club Monthly Reviews

March 2018 – “And the award goes to – pick a book that has won an award!”

16 thoughts on “The Captain’s Log – call it courage (Armstrong Sperry)

  1. Welcome to the journey!! I listened to the audiobook myself, so I didn’t realize there were illustrations. I’ll certainly have to check a copy out from the library just to check it out.

    While there is a lot which would be considered poorly represented today, I still think Call it Courage is valuable and relevant looked at in the frame from which it was written! The world viewed the South Pacific Islanders VERY different in 1940 than we do today. And you’re right, just like Sperry went on many adventures, many other books also featured this sort of rhetoric. It’s interesting to see how people have grown, isn’t it?

    What’s next on your Newbery quest?!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was intrigued by the fact that the audio book let ye hear pronunciations. I also wish I could have word definitions and soundbites for all words I don’t know. Even the English ones! I think me next one will be a re-read of Dear Mr. Henshaw. I haven’t read it in many many years and a crew member was talking about it. I dug me ole copy out of the hold. Now I just have to get in the right mood for it.
      x The Captain

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s what I love the most about listening to audiobooks for sci-fi and fantasy; I can finally understand how to pronounce the characters names! In book club discussions I often realize I never actually *learned* the character’s names since I can’t recall them. If I don’t know the name naturally, I just sorta… skip it. Oops.

        I thought re-reading Dear Mr. Henshaw as an adult was quite a different experience. I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I am horrible with remembering character names and so usually have to look them up whether I read them or listen to them. I have trouble remembering names period. When I worked in the theatre, I used to memorize actor headshots before the first day of rehearsal. Otherwise I could only call them by their character names which was rather embarrassing.
        x The Captain

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Oh goodness. Anything by Shakespeare! I studied the Bard in graduate school. In terms of slightly more modern shows, I have seen two excellent productions of Noises Off! recently. You Can’t Take it With You. Shaw. Coward. The list is long. I don’t really like musicals. There are a couple I love. But most are crap. I am aware this puts me in the minority. I could go on but I won’t 🙂
        x The Captain

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Watching Shakespeare is soooo different from reading it. I am completely with you on this; in fact, I make an effort to go to see at least one Shakespeare performance each summer. This summer I am seeing Measure by Measure for the first time. I’m super excited.

        Noises Off! Is one of my favorite shows of all time. And The Nerd. I haven’t seen any of Shaw’s works live yet… which I feel is a crime… But unlike you, I love musicals. I don’t always think the scripts are great, but the music slays me. So compelling! I have a few degrees in music, though, so I’m certainly biased. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      5. I don’t know the nerd. I will have to look it up. But I am seeing Measure for Measure next year. I am looking forward to that because I haven’t seen it. And I have absolutely no talent for music. I can’t even read it despite taking classes. Hurts me brain. Made calling musicals rough sometimes. Do ye find that yer music background makes ye judge music more harshly i.e. in terms of pitch, melody, etc.?
        x The Captain

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Oh, I am definitely sometimes a HUGE jerk when I listen to music. I’ve been told by my friends that I’m not allowed to watch the live TV musical adaptions any longer. I ruin everything by ruthlessly making fun of it all. Oops. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  2. A wonderful review Captain! I remember reading “Call it Courage” as a child. A great quest to read all of the Newberry Award winning books! I recognize reading so many of the award winners but didn’t realized how long ago the books were written. Enjoyed the post Captain! Arrrgh!

    Liked by 1 person

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