Matthew Henson: Arctic Adventurer
Illustrated by Phil Miller and Charles Barnett III
Ages 8 to 10
Capstone Press, 2006, 0-7368-4368-4
It was hard being a young black man who had dreams in the late 1800’s. It seemed as if Matt Henson would never be able to find a job which wasn’t boring, physically back- breaking, and ill paid. Despite the fact that Matt had many skills including navigation, reading, and more, he was only hired to do menial jobs. Then, at last, he got a break. Matt found work serving as a valet for Lieutenant Robert Peary. Matt and Peary went to Nicaragua together and then, some time later, Peary asked Matt to go to the Arctic with him. Peary dreamed of becoming the first man to reach the North Pole and Matt hoped to be able to help him achieve this goal.
Together the men made several trips to the Artic. In between the trips Matt had to make a living in America and he had to reconcile himself to being treated badly. In the Arctic however he was valued for his skills, his courage, and his resourcefulness. It was very much as if he had to “live in two different worlds.”
In April of 1909 Matt and Peary and their companions finally got to the North Pole. Unfortunately Matt’s contribution to the success of this remarkable journey was not recognized once the explorers got home and Matt had to once again fight the injustices of racism.
Many young and not so young readers will be surprised to discover that Peary was accompanied by Matthew Henson on his famous journey to the North Pole. All too often Henson’s name is left out of the history books. In this excellent account Henson is given the recognition he deserves and the story serves as a first rate tribute to an exceptional man.
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