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KEEP ON! The Story of Matthew Henson Co-Discoverer of the North Pole

Author: Deborah Hopkinson

Illustrator: Stephen Alcorn

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Publisher: Peachtree Publishers,

Material: paperback

Summary: Matthew Henson lived to explore. He was born in 1866, at a time when young black boys were lucky to have any formal education, much less see the world. He started to learn the trades of the sea at age 13, and Captain Childs offered him an education he could never get in school. After Captain Childs died, he met Robert E. Peary, who asked him to join his expedition to Greenland. Ultimately, after multiple attempts, Henson and Peary reached the North Pole. This is a nonfiction picture book that tells Matthew Henson's story.

Type of Reading: bedtime story, family reading, anytime reading, independent reading, read aloud book, remedial reader, reluctant reader

Recommended Age: read together: 6 to 12; read yourself: 9 to 12

Interest Level: 6 to 12

Reading Level: 4

Age of Child: Read with a child nearly 8 years old.

Young Reader Reaction: I was surprised how much my daughter loved this book. She wanted to stop and look at the pictures and asked lots of questions.

Adult Reader Reaction: This is a fascinating story, and it has piqued my interest to learn more about Matthew Henson. The story lays out plenty of details, but it is well presented for its audience. It is very understandable, but does not talk down to them, either. I love how it pushed my daughter to learn new words and understand idioms. The journal entries and line-drawn illustrations offer a great complement to the story.

Pros: Exceptional writing and a fascinating story will engage kids in learning history and biography.

Cons: Reading with kids who are very young could lead to questions about whether or not Peary and Henson met Santa. You might want to have an answer ready, just in case.

Borrow or Buy: Borrow, at least. This is a wonderful book about an explorer children should know. All children should read Keep On! at least once.


Educational Themes: Although the emphasis of the story is on Henson's life and his part in reaching the North Pole, there are other layers to the book: scientific study, and geography, as well as Eskimo life and culture. The material at the back of the book rounds out the opening discussion about post-Civil War life for blacks.

Notes: The publisher donated a copy of this book knowing that we would consider it for review and provide an independent, unbiased profile. This book will be given to a nonprofit to help readers in need.

Literary Categories: Nonfiction - biography, history, geography

Date(s) Reviewed: September 2009, April 2016

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