I, Matthew Henson: Polar Explorer

Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Tough-minded and poetic, this biographical sketch draws much of its power from what it leaves unsaid, obliging readers to align themselves closely with the narrator. The speaker is Matthew Henson, who joined Robert Peary in planting the flag on the North Pole in 1909; the words Weatherford assign him testify to a lifetime spent in resolute pursuit of his ambitions. "I did not start as cabin boy, climb the ranks to able-bodied seaman... and learn trades and foreign tongues to be shunned by white crews who thought blacks were not seaworthy," he states. "My dreams had sails." Setting forth a dramatic list of what Henson "did not" do, the story points to extraordinary reserves of courage and perseverance: Henson sails with Peary, "again and again," through the frozen seas, starves, returns to the U.S. and marries, and tries once more to reach the North Pole. Where the text adopts Henson's perspective, Velasquez (previously paired with the author for Jesse Owens: Fastest Man Alive) generally views Henson at an ennobling distance, envisioning him communicating with Eskimos (alone of Peary's men, he learned Inuit) or shielding his face, temporarily a railroad porter in the segregated South. His pastels are especially well suited to the polar scenes, where they suggest both the cold hard surfaces of snow and ice and the frozen colors of the skies. An endnote amplifies Henson's life and accomplishments. Ages 6-11. (Jan.)

Copyright 2007Reed Business Information
Children's Literature - Mary Quattlebaum
Author Carole Boston Weatherford and artist Eric Valasquez bring to vibrant life an important historical figure in I, Matthew Henson: Polar Explorer. Born to sharecropper parents in 1866 and battling racism all his life, Matthew Henson did not want to "drift in humdrum jobs… [His] dreams had sails." As a seaman, he traveled to five continents, and then signed on with naval officer Robert Peary for an expedition to the tropics. Henson stayed with Peary for two decades, becoming his right-hand man on numerous explorations and twice saving his life. In 1909, he, Peary and four Eskimos became the first humans to reach the North Pole. Weatherford's lyrical account highlights Henson's intelligence, determination and flexibility as he confronts the many obstacles to his goals. Valasquez captures those characteristics in portraits of Henson playing the accordion for Eskimo hosts, carrying a frost-bitten Peary and driving a dog sled. Reviewer: Mary Quattlebaum
School Library Journal

Gr 2-5
This picture-book account of the explorer's life and accomplishments begins when the 13-year-old orphan signed on as cabin boy on the Katie Hines . After his captain died, no one would hire a black crewman, so he became a stock boy in a store where a chance meeting with Robert Peary changed the course of his life. Henson was hired as his assistant and together they made seven trips to the Arctic between the years 1891 and 1909. The book reveals the extreme hardships they faced: frigid cold, frozen waters, frostbite, harsh winds, and lack of food or funds. The capable assistant would save Peary's life twice, befriend the Inuit and learn their language, and intuitively lead the team to their destination when faulty instruments had failed them. Using sparse, poetic language, Weatherford tells Henson's story in the first person, beginning each page of text in a similar manner. The form effectively captures the subject's determination: "I did not start as cabin boy, climb the ranks to able-bodied seaman, sail to five continents, and learn trades and foreign tongues to be shunned by white crews." An author's note provides more biographical information. The mostly full-spread pastel illustrations use a palette of white, gray, pale blue, and brown to show the vast, icy landscape. Powerful words and images make this an excellent choice for units on explorers or African Americans.
—Barbara AuerbachCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802796882
  • Publisher: Walker & Company
  • Publication date: 12/26/2007
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 790,459
  • Age range: 6 - 11 Years
  • Lexile: 1070L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 10.27 (w) x 10.80 (h) x 0.39 (d)

Meet the Author

CAROLE BOSTON WEATHERFORD is the award-winning author of 19 books of poetry, nonfiction and children’s literature. She resides in High Point, N.C., with her husband, Ronald, and their children, Caresse and Jeffrey. She is the author of Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom, which won a Caldecott Honor. www.caroleweatherford.com

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. www.ericvelasquez.com

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