McNeer and Ward leave readers to make their own connections between the biographies, as there are no introductions or conclusions to the book itself or the various sketches. The title implies that the seven individuals who are featured are united by both physical and spiritual courage. Nightingale disgraced her family by entering what was considered a demeaning occupation, and Father Damien bravely shared his food and pipe with the lepers with whom he lived. Carver did not let college rejections based on his race daunt his thirst for knowledge. Addams never shrank from visiting slums, and nothing discouraged Grenfell as he imported more doctors into his hospital and opposed the “trucking” system with his cooperative stores. Gandhi did not fear prison terms resulting from his nonviolent resistance to unjust laws, and Schweitzer did not budge from his hospital during World War II despite the fighting going on around him. Indeed, these seven heroes had courage.
Compassion, however, actually emerges as a more pronounced trait uniting the seven. Young Nightingale would give up parties or miss a lesson to care for farmers’ sick children, Father Damien refused to build a hut for himself until each of the lepers had one, and Carver traveled in a wagon to visit the poor farmers who could not come to Tuskegee. Addams started art classes and hung fine art in Hull-House so that immigrants could know art once more, and as a medical student, Grenfell gathered groups of boys from the slums and took them on camping trips to the...
(The entire section is 627 words.)
Overall, Armed with Courage is more a collection of stories than of facts. The birth and death dates of the individuals are missing in some of the sketches, and no attempt is made at documentation. Consequently, this is a book to be read for entertainment and inspiration, not for research. The authors have published many books for juveniles, including several biographies. With their wide-ranging interests, McNeer and Ward do not pretend to be experts.
The sensitive writing uses details to tie youthful dreams to mature accomplishments. The authors include those background elements that were influential to the individual, but their emphasis is on incidents that illustrate courage, compassion, independence, selflessness, and determination. It is in this manner that McNeer and Ward attempt to create interest and to inspire their young readers. The dramatic illustrations, fourteen of which are full-page, enhance the text and attract the interest of juvenile readers. Ward used gray-wash drawings and his famed three-dimensional effect to make these humanitarians come to life, and he favored illustrations that tell a story on their own. Despite the book’s brevity, it does provide information that is not found in a standard encyclopedia. The authors’ primary intention, however, was to interest youth in these admirable people. For these reasons, this biography has become a classic of young adult literature.