Eric Velasquez


I, Matthew Henson

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.

I, Matthew Henson

I, Matthew Henson


I, Matthew Henson

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Written in Henson’s first-person voice, each plain, eight-line poem begins with resistance to the prejudice and false perceptions the narrator experienced (“I did not sail to the tropics just to launder / shirts and cook meals”; “I meant / to prove myself as an explorer”), as step by step he earns Peary’s trust and sails with him to Greenland. After several trips, during which he learned Inuit and befriended the indigenous people, “Peary picked me to go all the way to the Arctic, vowing / he could not make it without me.” Including portraits and dynamic action scenes, the beautifully textured pastels show the icy landscape, the tough explorers, and the grim situation at home, as when Henson stands next to a “Whites Only!” sign, meeting hate while “exploring my own land.” In the final climactic scene Peary, Henson, and four Eskimos are on the ice at the North Pole. The twist from negative to triumphant in each poem and the suspense that builds to the final journey make this a great combination of adventure in the wild landscape and personal struggle. Includes a detailed final note. Grades 2-4. --Hazel Rochman

I, Matthew Henson

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