Matthew Henson Critical Essays

Michael Gilman


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Gilman has written this biography with a young reader in mind and seemingly with the intent to reach an African-American audience. With his biography published as part of the Black American series published by Melrose Square, Matthew Henson is in company with such figures as Ella Fitzgerald, Nat Turner, Paul Robeson, and Jackie Robinson.

The book is geared to a young audience with its liberal use of photographs, and the text is addressed to a younger reader as well. Although in no way talking down to the reader, Gilman provides clear definitions within the text of words that might require explanation. The term “frostbite,” for example, is thoroughly explained as “a condition that occurs when parts of the body such as the ears, nose, fingers, and toes are not protected adequately from the cold and thus become frozen. The only way to stop the effects of severe frostbite is amputation.” This kind of explanation is provided consistently throughout the book.

In addition, though much factual material is included in the book, Gilman employs a clear style that is straightforward and to the point. The story is presented in a fast-paced way that moves the young reader through the text. Chapter endings, in particular, entice the reader to continue.

Gilman uses excerpts from both Henson’s and Peary’s personal journals, as well as newspaper articles, not only to document details in the text but also to illustrate personal...

(The entire section is 560 words.)