I originally intended to do a “Lumberjanes” graphic novel for this square but can’t find it! Instead I read Call It Courage, which was on my summer reading lists as a child but I never got around to reading. My thirteen year old saw me and said that she had read it for school a few years ago, and that it has a great character arc. Mafutu does go through transformation and growth but I’m not certain I would qualify it as a “great character arc” as there isn’t much character development, he just continues to find new levels of courage as he over comes each obstacle.
Call It Courage is a sparsely worded tale of a boy proving to himself that he can over come his fears and become a son his father would be proud of. Mafutu is terrified of the ocean due to a traumatic experience at the age of three. Growing up, he is more comfortable staying on land and fashioning tools, nets and lines, knives, shell fish hooks, and the like. Upon over hearing the village boys mocking his fear, Mafutu decides to leave his atoll home and strike out for a distant island, to then later return in triumph.
What follows is a linear story with every piece foreshadowed as, bit by bit, Mafutu over comes his various fears and challenges himself to greater deeds, finding pride in his accomplishments. Being shipwrecked with only his dog for company, on an unknown island, has Mafutu using every piece of his knowledge and grateful for the time spent making things for the village. Parts of Call It Courage reminded me of The Black Stallion when Alec is trapped on the deserted island with the Black and figuring out how to survive.
I was not the target audience but can see how this is an exciting read for kids. Mafutu fights a shark, a giant octopus, and a wild boar! He makes a knife from a whale bone, and builds a dugout canoe, out rigger, and sail by hand. And successfully escapes cannibals! But, most importantly, the dog makes it through all the adventures safely. I found it okay but was underwhelmed, expecting more because it is a Newberry Medal winner.
Note: Those are fossilized shark teeth found by my family on North Carolina and Florida beaches.