Picture of author.

Armstrong Sperry (1897–1976)

Author of Call It Courage

38+ Works 7,419 Members 60 Reviews

About the Author

Armstrong Sperry was a well-known writer and illustrator of books for children and young adults. Many of his works were historical fiction and biography, and he often wrote about sailing ships. His most famous book, Call It Courage, won the Newbery Medal in 1941 for excellence in children's show more literature. show less
Image credit: armstrongsperry.com

Works by Armstrong Sperry

Call It Courage (1940) 5,547 copies
All About the Jungle (1959) 86 copies
Storm Canvas (1944) 31 copies
Black Falcon (1949) 25 copies
River of the West (1952) 24 copies
Danger To Windward (1947) 22 copies
Thunder Country (1952) 19 copies
The Rain Forest (1964) 17 copies

Associated Works

The Story of Mankind (1997) — Illustrator, some editions — 1,559 copies
Tarzan and the Lost Empire (1928) — Illustrator, some editions — 555 copies
Through Lands of the Bible (1938) — Illustrator — 115 copies
Mystery at Thunderbolt House (1944) — Illustrator — 96 copies
Hell on Ice (1938) — Illustrator — 89 copies
The Story of Hiawatha (1951) — Illustrator — 68 copies
The Jinx Ship (1927) — Illustrator — 39 copies
Boat Builder: The Story of Robert Fulton (1940) — Illustrator — 32 copies
The Codfish Musket (1936) — Illustrator — 23 copies
Johann Gutenberg (Real People) (1951) — Illustrator — 23 copies
Zebulon Pike (Real People) (1950) — Illustrator — 19 copies
Faraway Ports (1940) — Illustrator — 18 copies
Prince Henry (Real People) (1951) — Illustrator — 13 copies
Clipper Ship Men (1944) — Illustrator — 12 copies
Night Boat and Other Tod Moran Mysteries (1942) — Illustrator — 11 copies
Jungle River (1945) — Illustrator — 10 copies
Shuttered Windows (1971) — Illustrator — 8 copies
Secret of the Congo (1955) — Illustrator — 8 copies
Writing Books for Boys and Girls (1952) — Contributor, some editions — 5 copies
Ocean Outposts — Illustrator — 4 copies
Tall Timber (1955) — Illustrator — 4 copies
New World Builders: Thrilling Days with Lewis and Clark (1937) — Illustrator — 2 copies
Nicholas Arnold: Toolmaker (1941) — Illustrator — 2 copies
Courage Over the Andes (1940) — Illustrator — 2 copies
Dogie Boy — Illustrator — 2 copies
Winabojo: Master of Life (1941) — Illustrator — 1 copy
Stars to Steer By — Illustrator — 1 copy


Common Knowledge

Legal name
Sperry, Armstrong Wells
Date of death
Burial location
Evergreen Rest Cemetery, Thetford Center, Orange County, Vermont, USA
New Haven, Connecticut, USA
Place of death
Hanover, New Hampshire, USA
Places of residence
New York, New York, USA
Hanover, New Hampshire, USA
Paris, France
Thetford Center, Vermont, USA
Stamford Preparatory School
Art Students League of New York
Yale University (School of Art)
Académie Colarossi
Sperry, Paul A. (brother)
United States Navy
Awards and honors
Newbery Medal (1941)
New York Herald Tribune Children's Spring Book Festival Award (1944)
Boys' Clubs of America Junior Book Award (1949)
Short biography
Armstrong W. Sperry was born on November 7, 1897 in New Haven, Connecticut. Sperry was an American writer and illustrator of children's literature. His books include historical fiction and biography, often set on sailing ships, and stories of boys from Polynesia, Asia and indigenous American cultures. He is best known for his 1941 Newbery Medal-winning book "Call It Courage." Sperry died on April 26, 1976.



I remember reading this book years ago for school. Our copy doesn’t have a particularly inspiring cover, so I wasn’t sure if I would like it or not, but as soon as I got into it, I realized the cover was misleading. I loved it!

More recently, when my siblings wanted me to read a book to them one day, we chose this one…and ended up finishing it the same day. This is a gripping read! I love the way it showcases history and how people lived in the past, while also illustrating what it means to be courageous and push yourself outside your comfort zone.

This isn’t an easy story, in some ways—Mafatu faced some very difficult circumstances, and then there are (vague) allusions to horrific worship practices that were not uncommon back then. There are also quite a few mentions of Polynesian gods, as this book is based on a legend that was formed long before any Christian missionaries got to the area.

Overall, though, it’s a great book. It has become a family favorite, one of those books that if someone mentions the title, everyone’s eyes light up. “Yes, that one!”. In my opinion, everyone should read this at least once in their lives. It’s a short, sharp, impactful story, and I’m grateful my mom introduced me to it when I was a child.
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EstherFilbrun | 48 other reviews | Oct 6, 2023 |
One of my earliest books leading to my love of the Sea. A boyhoods dream.
BrianRichards66 | 2 other reviews | Oct 4, 2023 |
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 the 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.… (more)
PlumfieldCH | 48 other reviews | Sep 21, 2023 |
I read this one when it first came out as a child. It eventually led me to Jim Kjelgaard, Jack London and other writers of adventure stories. Call it Courage was probably the first story I read that sort of expanded my horizons beyond my world in NE Wisconsin of the 1960's & early 1970's. Even in 2021, the story is not at all dated and I highly recommend it to any youngster looking to step outside of his comfort zone.
DaleAllenRaby | 48 other reviews | Mar 8, 2021 |



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