Keep On! The Story of Matthew Henson, Co-Discoverer of the North Pole

  • Keep On! The Story of Matthew Henson, Co-Discoverer of the North Pole

January 1, 2009
Peachtree Publishers
Ages 9-12

A Notable Social Studies Trade Book for 2010
by the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) and the Children's Book Council.

2009 Oregon Book Award Winner

A riveting account of African-American explorer Matthew Henson s 1909 journey to the North Pole with Admiral Peary Many know the story of Robert Peary s great 1909 expedition to reach the North Pole. Yet few people know that Peary was joined on this grueling, history-making journey by fellow explorer Matthew Henson.

Henson was born just after the Civil War, a time when slavery had been abolished, but few opportunities were available for black people. Even as a child, he exhibited a yearning for adventure, and at the age of only thirteen, he embarked on a five-year voyage sailing the seven seas and learning navigation, history, and mathematics.

Henson s greatest adventure began when he accepted an invitation by Robert Peary to join his expedition to the North Pole. The team endured storms, shifting ice, wind, injuries, accidents, and unimaginable cold. Finally on April 1, Peary, Henson, and four Inuit men began the final 133-mile push to the Pole.

Readers will share in the excitement and drama of this remarkable, history-making adventure as award-winning author Deborah Hopkinson pays tribute to a great but under recognized figure from America s past. Illustrator Stephen Alcorn s large-format, stylized ink-and-watercolor illustrations capture all the action. Excerpts from Henson s expedition diaries, a timeline, and an epilogue place the story in its historical context.


Literary Arts - Oregon Book Awards
What sets this book apart from the others , is the level of craftsmanship shown in the writing. In this fascinating story about Matthew Henson, an African American Arctic explorer, the language is fluid and rich and it’s clear that each word was chosen with care. “Matt spied the Katie Hines, a three-masted vessel so sharp and bright, she seemed like a star gliding on water.” Often non-fiction picture books can be a little dry and instructional, but this book abounds with vivid imagery as well as interesting facts. The illustrations serve the text beautifully, and the inclusion of some of Henson’s actual words in the text as well as a timeline and biographical information provided in the afterword elevate the reader’s experience to a literary level not easily achieved in books for young readers.

From Publishers Weekly
Hopkinson's (Sweet Land of Liberty) tribute to Matthew Henson, the African-American explorer credited as being the co-discoverer (along with Admiral Robert Peary) of the North Pole in 1909, retells a story gaining traction among picture-book publishers, adding a few welcome embellishments. Henson's own descriptions of the pristine landscape and the Inuit people, who teach him about the harsh, cold north, are peppered throughout Hopkinson's sturdy prose, while Alcorn's (Yours for Justice, Ida B. Wells) characteristically stylized illustrations range from images of classic Americana to organic figures in motion against collage-like backdrops of wild weather. In one detail, sled dogs run skyward, like Santa's reindeer, past what we can assume to be northern lights; elsewhere, wind gusts against the explorers in curling, curving lines. Though Henson emerges as idealized, Hopkinson's description of him as experienced, resourceful, brave comes across as well deserved. Ages 6–10. (Jan.). Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist
This picture book tells the story of Matthew Henson, African American explorer. Working aboard a ship for several years around 1880, the young Henson learned many skills that would be useful years later, when he joined explorer Robert Peary on several Arctic expeditions. After enduring hardships, dangers, and several failed attempts, Peary and Henson, accompanied by four Inuit men, reached the vicinity of the North Pole in 1909. The main text conveys a good bit of information within a clearly written narrative that includes one dramatic rescue scene during the final expedition. Large in scale and often handsome, the broad, double-page drawings are enhanced with symbolic and decorative elements and tinted with washes. The heroic imagery in the pictures sometimes seems to lessen the explorers’ humanity, while the large-print quotes from Henson’s Negro Explorer at the North Pole (1912), which appear on many double-page spreads, have the opposite effect. A historical note, a time line, and a brief list of sources are appended. Grades 1-4. --Carolyn Phelan