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 tha 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.
Armstrong Sperry was a beloved author and illustrator of children's literature. As a child, he was fascinated by adventure novels such as Robinson Crusoe and Treasure Island, which led him to embark on a year-long tour of the South Pacific that would inspire much of his work. He won the 1941 Newbery Medal for Call It Courage, a novel about a young boy on the island of Hikueru in Polynesia, and wrote or illustrated dozens of other books for young people. After many adventures, he moved with his family to Hanover, New Hampshire, where he lived until his death in 1976.
New York Herald Tribune "A boy's character at ten years old is more often influenced by emotion than by reasoning. Something in the conduct of a hero leaps like a spark to light his own spirit. A book with a hero can sometimes bring this about. This is such a book.... It is related with unusual skill, carrying along a reader so rapidly he scarecely realizes how well it is being told... The story is wild enough to be remembered, and it cannot be remembered without doing good." The New York Times "Whether this author is telling of clipper ships, of the days of the covered wagon, of the South Sea Islands, he writes always with imagination and integrity. Like all hero legends Mafatu's story has a strength and simplicity that appeals to a wide range in age and it is beautifully told. Mr. Sperry's fine drawings have the same spirit of adventure as the story and enhance the feeling of tropical seas and jungle given in the text. The story reads aloud well and will be useful to storytellers."