Armed with Courage Critical Context - Essay

May McNeer, Lynd Ward

Critical Context

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

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.