Armstrong Sperry was born on November 7, 1897, in New Haven, Connecticut. As far back as he can remember, he scribbled and drew pictures. His early interest in storytelling came from his great-grandfather, who was a sailor all his life, and delighted young Armstrong with all his scurvy pirate tales.

Armstrong attended Yale, interrupted by World War I. He enlisted in the navy. After the war he studed at the Art Students League in New York, then in Paris. Logic was driving him toward a job at an advertising agency, but he kept thinking of an island in the South Seas, about which his grandfather had told countless stories. "That's how, one day, I found myself in Tahiti looking for a schooner to take me there. I found the schooner, and I found the island."

The island of Bora Bora, and the Polynesian people, would later appear in many of Armstong's books. But he would continue commercial illustration for another ten years before it even occurred to him to be a writer.

On how his first book came about: "It was a simple story of one day in the life of a boy who lived on an island in the South Pacific - an island when I myself once lived many years ago. I had planned to tell the story entirely in pictures; so I went ahead and made forty or fifty or them before I ever wrote a line of the script. Then I decided that captions were needed. The captions grew longer and longer, and the first thing I knew, I was writing a book. It was as accidental as that."

Armstrong continued to travel throughout his life. In 1925, he joined the Kaimiloa expedition as an assistant ethnologist for the Bishop Museum of Honolulu. He sailed among the least-known islands of the South Pacific, learning the languages, the legends, and the music. Again, he drew pictures and stored up memories that ended up in his books.

In 1941, he won the Newbery. His acceptance speech is a good story and may be found at

Somewhere along the line, he also acquired two kids, a wife, and a farm in Vermont. Armstrong died on April 26, 1976.


"There is no essential difference between writing for young people and writing for adults, except that the former is perhaps more exacting. It calls for a discipline of words almost as demanding as the discipline of poetry. Every word must tell. The writer who loses himself in the windy descriptive passages, who indulges too many flights of philosophical fancy, will wake up to find that his reader has gone out to play ball."

"Children have imagination enough to grasp almost any idea and respond to it, if it is presented to them honestly and without a patronizing pat on the head."


All Sail Set: A Romance of the Flying Cloud

Amazon: River Sea Of Brazil

Black Falcon

Call It Courage   (1941 Newbery Award)

Danger To Windward

Great River, Wide Land

Hull Down For Action

John Paul Jones, Fighting Sailor

Pacific Islands Speaking

South Of Cape Horn

Storm Canvas

Wagons Westward: The Old Trail to Santa Fe

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