Call It Courage, a legendary adventure story by Armstrong Sperry, is a book filled with spirit and courage, despite its short length. The protagonist, Mafatu, is forced to overcome his fears and face the dangers of the world on his tiny canoe. Mafatu struggles with the two options he has on hand, either get made fun of in the safety of the island or try to prove his courage but at the same time risk his all.

Plot Summary and Background

Mafatu is the son of Tavana Nui, the chief of Hikueru island. Ever since his mother was killed by a deadly hurricane that ripped her canoe into bits, Mafatu dreads the ocean and is afraid to go near it. As a result, he doesn’t go fishing or sailing with the other boys, and instead spends his days making canoes and spears for them to use. Everyday, Mafatu is laughed at and almost everyone thinks that he is “only good for making spears.” When Mafatu turns fifteen, he decides that he’s had enough. He wants his father to be proud of him, and so, he sets off on a journey. Will Maui, the sea God, be on his side?

Things I Liked

Call It Courage teaches us many useful lessons. I think Mafatu’s determination and courage is what helps him go through multiple obstacles that otherwise would have ended up fatal. I also really liked how throughout the book there were lots of little glimpses inside the characters, and we get to know lots about Mafatu’s feelings. Another thing that makes the book really engaging is how we can clearly see Mafatu getting closer and closer to overcoming his fears. There are specific moments in the book where you stop and think to yourself; Wow, that was a really great moment of growth for Mafatu!

Things I Disliked

Call It Courage isn’t the most realistic book, and it’s not that easy to relate to. Other than that, there really isn’t much to critique about the writing, however there are a few warnings. To some people, the book may seem incredibly boring because of how much detail Sherry writes with; he rarely uses short sentences and is almost always describing things like the sun shimmering off the ocean, the scent of the wind on the island, and so on. When a storm hits, Sperry captures every detail and writes: “The sky darkened. A burst of lightning lit up the sea with supernatural brilliance. An instantaneous crack of thunder shattered the world. Lightning again, striking at the hissing water.” It creates a very visual effect and is a great way of showing the reader, but sometimes when you want to get to the exciting parts you first have to skim through this huge paragraph of description.


Call It Courage involves lots of emotion, and Armstrong Sperry paints so many pictures in your mind that it’s almost like watching a movie. Although I personally think that sometimes his descriptions get in the way of a very exciting plot line, I would recommend this book. It’s a bit like the shortened version of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, so if you liked that one, you’re bound to find Call It Courage very fascinating! 4 out of 5 stars.