Skip to content

Call it Courage – Book Club Begins

August 18, 2008

It happened many years ago, before the traders and missionaries first came into the South Seas, while the Polynesians were still great in numbers and fierce of heart. But even today the people of Hikueru sing this story in their chants and tell it over the evening fires (p. 7, p. 95)

Chers Amis,

So starts Call it Courage by Armstrong Sperry, our first Book Club Selection for 2008-2009. Since I am hosting this month's meeting and leading the discussion, I sent out a few ideas to the girls that I thought I would share with you all too. First of all,if you have read it before, I highly suggest you try looking at it anew, hearing it anew, from the perspective of the oral tradition. If you have a chance, listen to the book on tape. You will hear a distinctive style reminiscent of poetry and storytelling. As the opening lines reveal, Mafatu's story of Courage is well known among his people and is told around campfires from generation to generation. Call it Courage is more like Beowulf than a novel. Try reading it aloud with this in mind. It is a virtue tale, a tale of heroism, a legend in the making. Listen for echoes of the Greek mythic tradition where men have sought to overcome an angry god with the help of another.

There many printed editions of this classic, I like the one pictured above as it includes excellent illustrations. If you liked Scott O'Dell's The Island of Blue Dolphins you will enjoy Call it Courage.

I have listed a few links below that may help you explore the many rabbit trails this classic offers young readers. I hope you will find something to your liking!–Marjorie

"Story Summary: This story is set on the Polynesian island of Hikueru where courage is admired above all other qualities, and to be "fierce of heart" is considered everything. Young Mafatu, however, is not the possessor of a fierce heart. At the age of three, he escaped the fury of a turbulent storm and the sea that took the life of his mother. Moana, the Sea God, has been cheated of Mafatu's life, and Mafatu thinks the sea of Moana waits to devour him. His fear of the sea keeps Mafatu from obtaining his proper position in the village. His father, the chief of Hikueru, regrets the name Stout Heart that he had bestowed earlier on his son, Mafatu. Resentment stirs in Mafatu's heart when he overhears Kana, another boy his age, say, "Mafatu is a coward." Mafatu resolves he will undertake a quest to prove his courage and sets out for another island where he hopes to find a place for himself among strangers. The will to live is strong in Mafatu. With the help of his dog, Uri, and an albatross, Kivi, he overcomes his fears, conquers dangerous animals, outsmarts a group of "eaters-of-men," and survives the perils of his environment. He returns to his rightful position on Hikueru, wearing a necklace of boar's teeth, a symbol of Mafatu's stout heart and strong arm." From


2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 18, 2008 4:53 pm

    I’ve never had a chance to read this book, it sounds great though!

  2. August 18, 2008 11:31 pm

    We loved this book! I wish your club would consider going co-ed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s