Saturday, February 02, 2008

Call It Courage by Armstrong Sperry

Originally published in 1940.
Awarded the Newbery Medal in 1941.
Audio book performed by Lou Diamond Phillips.

I am not a huge fan of stories that focus on man-nature conflict (particularly when "man" is not used in the generic sense). Although I read many Newbery winners as a child, this is one I never read, and I assume that the focus of the story was a big part of that omission. I was never one to shy away from "boy" books - nor was my mother (who was my chief reading advisor) one to discourage such reading - so the fact that the main character of Call It Courage is a Polynesian boy named Mafatu is not sufficient reason for me not to have read it.

Despite my goal (via participation in The Newbery Project) to read all of the books that have received the Newbery Medal, I didn't expect that Call It Courage would be one I would be reading soon. But having finished (and thoroughly enjoyed) Ron Rifkin's performance of The Giver, I was looking for a new audio book to listen to during my commute. When I discovered that Lou Diamond Phillips performs Call It Courage, I decided to check it out of the library.

I found the writing to be poetic, and my enjoyment was enhanced by hearing it with the accompanying sound effects. The book certainly contains man-nature conflict, but the greater conflict is man-himself (and I am using that generically) - and I think that's something to which we can all relate. In this case, Mafatu faces his fears, particularly his fear of the sea that took his mother's life, and learns that he contains the "Stout Heart" that is the meaning of his name.

Considering that this book was published in 1940, long before kids were familiar with Survivor or even the Discovery Channel, I think Call It Courage was admirable in providing American children with some exposure to a distant culture.

While Call It Courage isn't one of my all-time favorite Newbery books, I am glad to have listened to the audio book version of it. (Lou Diamond Phillips can read me a bedtime story anytime!)



  1. You were much kinder than me. :)

  2. Nice review, Alison. I definitely want to listen to this version.

    BTW, I have a little something for you on my blog.