Cover image for Onward : a photobiography of African-American polar explorer Matthew Henson
Title:
Onward : a photobiography of African-American polar explorer Matthew Henson
ISBN:
9780792279143
Publication Information:
Washington. D.C. : National Geographic, c2006.
Physical Description:
64 p. : ill., maps ; 29 cm.
Reading Level:
1070 L Lexile
Summary:
The conquest of the North Pole was an elusive, almost impossible goal at the beginning of the last century. But a son of patrician parents, Robert E. Peary, and a son of sharecroppers, Matthew Henson, shared a dream of conquering the unconquered North Pole and were brave enough to risk their lives numerous times before they finally succeeded. Henson's great physical stamina and his ability to speak Inuit and develop warm relationships with the peoples of the Arctic were indispensable to the quest. He mastered the complexities of the dog sled and led the team across the layers of ice that covered the frigid, threatening Arctic Ocean. Henson and Peary's jubilation at finally reaching the Pole was later tempered by the controversy that swirled around their achievement. Once their deed was recognized, African-American Henson still was not. It took history a long time to hail him as a hero of exploration--Publisher.
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Summary

Summary

The conquest of the North Pole was an elusive, almost impossible goal at the beginning of the last century. But a son of patrician parents, Robert E. Peary, and a son of sharecroppers, Matthew Henson, shared a dream of conquering the unconquered North Pole and were brave enough to risk their lives numerous times before they finally succeeded. Henson's great physical stamina and his ability to speak Inuit and develop warm relationships with the peoples of the Arctic were indispensable to the quest. He mastered the complexities of the dog sled and led the team across the layers of ice that covered the frigid, threatening Arctic Ocean. Henson and Peary's jubilation at finally reaching the Pole was later tempered by the controversy that swirled around their achievement. Once their deed was recognized, African-American Henson still was not. It took history a long time to hail him as a hero of exploration.


Author Notes

Dolores Johnson received a bachelor's degree in art from Boston University. She eventually moved to the Los Angeles area and applied her talents to advertising and television. At a friend's suggestion, she enrolled in picture book writing and illustrating courses. She was eventually asked to illustrate Jenny by Beth P. Wilson, which was published in 1990. Since then, she has written and illustrated several of her own stories including What Will Mommy Do When I'm at School?, Now Let Me Fly, and The Children's Book of Kwanzaa.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 4

Horn Book Review

(Intermediate) On April 6, 1909, Robert Peary reached the North Pole. There is some debate as to whether he was the first man to do so, and much to indicate that it was actually another member of his party, Matthew Henson. Yet for many years Henson was left out of the accounts of the expedition; if he was mentioned at all, it was, at best, as another member of the team or, at worst, as Peary's manservant. Johnson examines the historical record and shares with readers Henson's accomplishments and the racism that limited his options. Henson's character traits are compared to Peary's: although both men fathered children in the Arctic, and left them with their mothers, only Henson was considered a beloved member of the Inuit community. And whereas Peary organized the expeditions, Henson maintained them, building shelters, repairing sledges, offering technical expertise, and running the dog sleds. The unforgiving Arctic climate, vividly detailed in both text and archival photographs, took its toll on Peary, but Henson survived with no recorded ill effects. A chronology of events, a bibliography, related websites, tourist sites, and an index complete the account. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.


Booklist Review

Gr. 5-8. The quest to be the first to reach the North Pole is an exciting adventure story, and Henson got there first, as part of the ninth expedition led by Robert Peary in 1909. But Henson was African American, labeled as Peary's Negro manservant, and he did not get full recognition until 2001. This entry in the National Geographic\b Photobiography series focuses on the physical details of the dangerous Arctic journeys (Harsh winds stung their faces. Giant fissures of ice threatened every step ), the repeated failures and the teamwork, as well as Henson's skills, stamina, and essential role in forging relationships with the Inuit. Johnson avoids diatribe, clearly pointing out the respectful relationship between Peary and Henson. At the same time, the racism comes clear: the frozen, bleak Arctic was more hospitable than his own country. What's more, upon returning home from his extraordinary travels, Henson found himself still forced to take menial jobs such as stockboy. The book design is beautiful: thick paper, spacious type, and stirring photos that capture the icy storms as well as the people involved in the history. Back matter includes a glossary, a chronology, a bibliography, a few Web sites, and notes for direct quotes. Readers older than the target audience will be equally moved by the achievement of the sharecropper's son who explored the world. For another great Polar adventure, recommend Jennifer Armstrong's Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World (1999).--Hazel Rochman Copyright 2005 Booklist


School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-8-Stunning archival photographs from the early 20th century help tell the inspiring story of the African-American polar explorer. They document the excursions of Robert E. Peary and include some of the first images captured of the Inuit people and of the North Pole. Henson was hired as Peary's manservant, though proved himself a loyal friend and worthy trailblazer in the fierce, frozen conditions at the top of the world. Henson's story is told in informative, descriptive prose based on research from ample resources. Surviving family members help personalize this ennobling biography of a deserving innovator and the only person to be awarded National Geographic Society's Hubbard Medal posthumously. The story demonstrates that fortitude, strength, and loyalty are not determined by the color of one's skin, but "by the determination of one's spirit."-Jodi Kearns, University of Akron, OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Kirkus Review

"Our breath was frozen to our hoods of fur and our cheeks and noses frozen . . . it was a night of Plutonian Purgatory." Drawing from Henson's autobiography and other published sources, Johnson vividly chronicles the explorer's life and exploits with, understandably, particular reference to the multiple attempts he and Robert Peary made to reach the North Pole, as well as the dismal reluctance subsequently shown by American authorities and public to acknowledge his role in the achievement. Illustrated with dim, grey-and-silver expedition photos that capture a sense of the bitter Arctic climate (capped by a newer shot of one of Henson's Inuit descendants), this frank account pays tribute to the characters and abilities of both Henson and Peary. This is a more readable and visually appealing version than Laura Litwin's Matthew Henson: Co-Discoverer of the North Pole (2001). (chronology, resource list) (Biography. 10-13) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.