Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

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

Alcorn, Stephen (Illustrator)
Peachtree Publishers 2015. 36 pages
First published: 2009
ISBN: 9781561458868 (paperback)
Original language: English
Dewey: 910
Book type: Non-Fiction
Book genre: Biography

Text Elements:

character, point of view, setting

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

“For Matt was born in 1866, just after the Civil War, a time when poor black boys like him had few chances to roam the next county, to say nothing of another country, the seven seas, or the top of the world.”

Simple yet poetic language conveys the eventful life story of explorer Matt Henson from the age of 13, when he walked to Baltimore and found himself an apprenticeship and a world of adventure on a sailing ship: “Captain Childs taught him history and mathematics, and soon Matt could navigate by the stars, tie sailor’s knots, and fix or build most anything.”

Fanciful illustrations use watercolour and sketching techniques to create symbolic scenes. One image shows shop assistant Matt showing bowler hats to Robert E. Peary, as a giant globe—the North Pole highlighted—forecasts the importance of this happenstance meeting. Another depicts a montage of Arctic living, as Inuit build, fish, sled and play a lacrosse-like game under a swoosh of northern lights. Quotes from Henson’s own memoirs serve as evocative captions: “The night is coming quickly, the long months of darkness, of quiet and cold.”

An author’s note outlines the racist context that denied Henson’s essential contribution to the discovery of the North Pole. Also included is a timeline and sources for further reading.

  •  

    On the dedication page, read about the research done for this book. Why is this explanation important? Why is it included at the beginning? What are primary and secondary sources?

  •  

    Go for a picture walk and make predictions about the characters, setting and plot. Discuss possible reasons for the different types of text.

  •  

    Make a character map for Hanson. Make connections between his actions, accomplishments and traits.

  •  

    Read the Author’s Note at the back. What injustices are outlined? Do you think the measures taken to recognize Henson after his death are sufficient?

  •  

    Compare this book with another that reveals historical figures who were not recognized for their contributions to society (such as Brick by Brick by Charles R. Smith). Why is it important to study these people? What current situations might be similar?

  •  

    Define and discuss the idea of an expedition. What qualities would you need to be an explorer? What could you explore?

  •  

    Go for a picture walk. Why do you think there are two types of text?

  •  

    Create a character map of Henson. What made him a great explorer?

  •  

    As the story is read aloud, note the equipment that would be needed for a team to go to the North Pole. Draft plans for such an expedition. Use a map, graphic organizers and lists to show your understanding.

  •  

    Given the racial limitations of that time, discuss how Matthew managed to get to the North Pole. Did he get the recognition he deserved? How about the four Inuit men?

  •  Research the controversy related to the first person to discover the North Pole. Take notes and discuss your findings as a class.
  •  

    In trios, write a journal entry about the day the North Pole was finally reached: one as Robert Peary, one as Matthew Henson and one as Ootah (or one of the other three Inuit men). Discuss the similarities and differences of their experiences.

  •  

    Research another controversial “first” (Lindberg’s transatlantic flight, first to climb Mt. Everest, etc.). Present your findings via a digital poster.

  • To construct his/her identity
  • To exercise critical judgment
  • To use information
  • To use information and communications technologies
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Media Literacy
  • Geography, History and Citizenship
  • Physical Education and Health
  • Science and Technology
  • Social Sciences
  • Visual Arts