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First Man: Reimagining Matthew Henson by…
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First Man: Reimagining Matthew Henson

by Simon Schwartz

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This is a fictionalized account of the life of Matthew Henson, the first black man to reach the North Pole. The author was inspired to create it after learning of Henson's mythical status among the Inuit he met on his journeys north with Commander Peary. There is a mythical quality to his telling, as Native-style masks suddenly pop up on characters or appear across spreads, hinting at danger or caution or the building of Henson's myth. Readers who were not aware of Henson's role in the "discovery" of the North Pole will likely want to know more of his true story. ( )
  Salsabrarian | Mar 8, 2016 |
A fictionalized biography of African-American Matthew Henson considered to be the first person to set foot at the North Pole even besting Perry, his Commander. While being a story of Arctic Exploration and of a forgotten black hero it is also a tale of the Inuit. Matthew Henson became a legend to the Inuit people of the area and they have art and stories depicting him. A fascinating piece of little-known history illustrated with exceptional art in shades of blues and browns. Especially delightful is the Inuit style pictures. The book also takes a hard look at the prejudice ingrained into the life of an average black man from Northern US during this era in history. Eye-opening on many levels. Lovely piece of work. ( )
  ElizaJane | Aug 10, 2015 |
A gorgeous reimagining of the life of Matthew Henson, believed to be the first Westerner -- beating Commander Perry -- to reach the North Pole. Black, grey, and blue tones create a powerful color palette. Set against a backdrop of late 19th century culture and racism, with a complementary native storyline, the narrative packs a significant punch emotionally and historically, and it is a powerful, compelling, rapid read. In the back matter, it becomes clear that several facts -- Henson's job prior to retirement, the death of his wife that actually comes after (not before) Henson's, among others -- that are not correct. This deflates some of the work's use as a potential biography, as middle grade readers may lack the ability to discern what is fact. (This lowered my evaluation from being a five-star read to a four-star one.) However, this is a tour de force for Lerner's list. Recommended. Review copy received from the publisher via NetGalley.com. (121) ( )
  activelearning | May 24, 2015 |
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In this graphic novel, Simon Schwartz weaves biography and fiction together to explore the life of Arctic adventurer Matthew Henson. Moving between different time periods and incorporating Inuit mythology, Schwartz offers fresh perspective on the many challenges Henson confronted during his life. As a member of early missions to reach the North Pole, Henson braved subzero temperatures and shifting sea ice. As an African American at the turn of the twentieth century, he also faced harassment and prejudice. Henson won a place on Arctic expeditions through skill and determination--though he didn't receive the same credit as his teammates. He also won the respect of the native peoples he met during his journeys--though he couldn't prevent the harm that the expeditions caused them. More than a biography, First Man: Reimagining Matthew Henson is an artistic homage to Henson's accomplishments and the complicated realities of being a trailblazer in a society that didn't recognize black men as equals.… (more)

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