Wednesday, November 9, 2016
N-F journey - Someone Left Out
Thanks to Alyson Beecher's Non-Fiction Picture Book Challenge at Kidlit Frenzy, those who link up share fabulous non-fiction picture books. I am grateful for all that I've learned through reading non-fiction picture books.
As Deborah Hopkinson says in a further note in the back matter, she learned about Matthew Henson late in life, just as I did. The wonderful part is that authors like Deborah Hopkinson are researching and writing biographies to tell us about people and events in history that have been previously ignored.
Matthew Henson had a tough life but was smart and tough himself as you will see from his story. He was orphaned at thirteen, set out on his own and landed in the Baltimore Harbor. There he was fortunate to be taken on as a cabin boy by a captain who liked him and then educated him. Matthew Henson obviously was smart, learns all he can, but after a few years moves on. Amazingly, he was working at a store when he met Robert Peary. Peary immediately liked Matthew and asked him to join him on his next expedition to Greenland. Their partnership and adventure began!
The story Hopkinson tells is brief, but rugged, including so much about Matthew Henson's ability to learn and work. From the front cover: "With unthinkable determination, Henson repaired equipment, hunted, and traded with and learned from the Inuit." These two explorers were together eighteen years! In brief challenging moments, the reader learns page by page of the stamina needed to achieve their goal of reaching the top of the world! Their clothing was not today's clothing, they relied on dogs to carry equipment and Inuit natives to forge ahead and build igloos for shelter. Stephen Acorn creates a snowy landscape where after the journey begins, one can almost feel the cold.
According to the backmatter, which is good to read, Matthew Henson and other surviving members of the expedition were finally awarded medals by the Navy for their achievement. Other awards have been given since Henson died. The story is one that can be shared with children about determination and overcoming hardship to meet one's goals. It's inspiring!