Call it Courage

by Armstrong Sperry
128 pages, General Fiction
Reviewed by Esprit

Exciting survival adventure with prominent pagan spirituality.


Fifteen year-old Mafatu is shunned by his fishing village because he is deathly afraid of the sea. His name means “Stout Heart,” but everyone calls him a coward. At last, he determines to leave his home and not return unless he has proven his courage.

His adventures include fighting with boars, sharks, and octopuses, surviving on a desert island, and a close encounter with a tribe of cannibals. Always, he is trying to overcome his fear, so that he may stand proud among his people.


The chief characters portray honor and loyalty, though sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between honor and pride. Cannibalism is looked on as wrong. In the beginning, most of Mafatu’s village mock and scorn him, and Mafatu’s father is obviously ashamed of his son. Mafatu is hurt by their disdain but thinks it is justified, a point you might want to discuss.

Spiritual Content

A major component of the plot is that Mafatu fears Moana, his village’s god of the sea. Throughout the book, the boy prays to various gods for help and desperately longs to defy Moana.
The cannibals worship a huge stone idol which Mafatu regards as evil. They dance before it and obviously have human sacrifices there, though none are described.


Mafatu’s mother dies a tragic death. The boy survives a terrific storm and fights various creatures, often to the death. He has a thrilling, heart-pounding skirmish with the cannibals.
Mafatu finds human bones in the cannibal’s sacred clearing on the island.

Drug and Alcohol Content


Sexual Content

In the storm, Mafatu loses the cloth that covers the mid-section of his body and lives naked on the island until he makes a new one. Nothing is explicit. Illustrations show boys in these scanty coverings; any naked bodies are drawn in shadow.

Crude or Profane Language or Content



This book is beautifully written, like the fire-side telling of a legend, with wonderful descriptions and a thrilling adventure. Some might be disturbed by the large amount of pagan spirituality, but I don’t believe it’s overly done. It’s also a rather quick read. I would readily recommend this book!

Fun Score: 5
Values Score: 3.5
Written for Age: 11-12

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