Matthew Henson was not meant to lead an ordinary life. His dreams had sails.
They took him from the port of Baltimore, around the world, and north to the pole.
No amount of fear, cold, hunger, or injustice could keep him from tasting adventure and exploring the world.
He learned to survive in the Arctic wilderness, and he stood by Admiral Peary for years on end, all for the sake of his goal.
And finally, after decades of facing danger and defying the odds, he reached the North Pole and made history.
At last, Henson had proved himself as an explorer-and as a man.
About the Author
Carole Boston Weatherford is the award-winning author of more than 50 books of poetry, nonfiction, and children's literature. She resides in North Carolina where she teaches at Fayetteville State University. She is the author of three Caldecott Honor Books, including Freedom in Congo Square.
Eric Velasquez won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award for The Piano Man. He is a graduate of the School of Visual Arts and lives in Hartsdale, New York.
Weatherford details the life of explorer Matthew Henson in an interesting way. Each page begins with the words "I did not" or "We did not." These phrases illustrate that each action Henson took in life was to eventually grasp a great opportunity. Readers will take away that any job, friendship, or day can bring about great chances that if one takes can lead to the journey of a lifetime. Illustrator Eric Velasquez's pictures show great landscapes and pivotal moments in Henson's life greatly. This book would make a great addition to any unit on African American history or explorers.
Weatherford explores the aspects of Matthew Henderson's life that contributed to his role as a polar explorer. Using the parallel phrases of "I did not..." and "we did not...," Weatherford threads together Henson's personal difficulties, like those faced because of racism, and professional frustrations, like the many attempts to reach the North Pole, before Henson finally realized his dream of reaching the North Pole with lifelong friend, Robert Peary. The Author's Note contains more information about Henson's childhood and some of the controversy surrounding Peary and Henderson's trip to the North Pole. This text could fit into many thematic units--exploration, trials, survival, and journey, for example. I plan to use this text in my upcoming nonfiction unit centered around the concept of risk. Another feature of the book I liked was the use of parallel structure; I could use this book to talk to students about writers' choices, how this particular phrase anchors the text, and have students imitate Weatherford's sentence structure as a mentor text.