From the private papers of the Sperry family, posted at this website for educational purposes only. All rights reserved. © The Estate of Armstrong Sperry, 1999.
November 20, 1972
Dear Mr. Sperry,
Because I have been asked to speak at an association meeting celebrating 50 years of Newbery Awards, I am beginning to think of what the receiving of this award has meant to the author of a winning book as time goes on. Newbery acceptance speeches have indeed revealed some of the joy and stimulation that have come to the creators with the announcement of winning. But what has happened later, to affect the status of the book and influence further writing? How have such books traveled abroad, in translation?
Could you share a little of your views to support the celebrating of the Newbery Medal? We should be grateful to have this.
(One-time Newbery-Caldecott Chairman -- and wrapt listener to your acceptance speech in Harvard Yard) I am sure you have many feelings about this! [handwritten at the end]
Reply to: Children's Book Section
The Library of Congress
Washington, DC 20540
Dear Miss Haviland:
Your letter of November 20 was forwarded to me here in Key West, where I am spending the winter. It was good to hear about your forthcoming project, and I can think of no one better qualified than you to talk about the 50th anniversary of the Newbery Award.
As I look back over the years to the writing of "Call It Courage," it seems as if the book almost had written itself. The skeleton of the story had been in my mind for a long time, having its inception undoubtedly in those long and happy months I spent among the natives of Bora Bora.
Some years later, Doubleday asked me to write an adventure story about the South Seas -- a book that required considerable research and which later was published as "Lost Lagoon." The day I sent off that manuscript it occurred to me that this was the time to begin "Call It Courage" -- a title already in my mind. The long and frequently painful struggle to pin down words seemed (for the present) at an end and the book, as I have said, almost wrote itself. Its reception far exceeded my expectations.
It has been translated into some twenty languages, the most unlikely ones: Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Chinese and Japanese, Hindi and Urdu, all the Scandinavian tongues and most of the European. But the translation that has pleased me most has been Samoan. For then it seemed that Mafatu, who had paddled his canoe around the world so to speak, had returned at last to Polynesia where he belonged. The circle was complete.
I suppose that everyone, young or old, fears some particular thing. It may be illness, poverty, lack of acceptance, or a host of other nameless fears. And the kind of courage it takes to go out to face the thing one fears the most strikes a responsive chord in people of all ages and nationalities. Letters have come to me not only from children but from men and women in many parts of the world, telling me what the story of Mafatu has meant to them. This has been a deeply gratifying experience.
Once again, my thanks for your letter; and I wish that I might be listening in when you speak about the 50th anniversary of the Newbery Award.
Dec. 11 -- 1972