Reading/Interest Level: Young Adult
Author: Simon Schwartz
Publisher: Graphic Universe
Life isn’t fair. You can work hard, learn important skills, help make important discoveries and not get any credit for it. First Man: Reimagining Matthew Henson is the story of a man who did all the right things and you’ve probably never heard of him. As boy he found his way onto a ship where he started out scrubbing the decks. He became a ship’s carpenter and then went to work on the Panama Canal as the assistant to Commander Peary. After Panama, Peary made him part of the teams the United States sent to reach the North Pole. Henson’s mechanical skills, learned aboard ships, and his ability to work with other people including the Inuit were important to the missions. He was a key member of the exploration teams, he learned the language of the Inuit, he took photographs to document their lives, he was called the “First Man,” and yet he was never considered an equal on the team.
First Man is a fictionalized account of Matthew Henson's life. It tells Henson’s story in parallel panels, the hard time of his youth and the tough days at the end of his life. The illustrations are in a cool blue to match the story. Henson was one smart and determined person. So many adventures and so many tough choices fill the book. It is clear that the author feels that it is time for Henson to finally get credit for all the things he did for his expedition teams and his country.
*Contains some violence. There are also a lot of examples of people who didn’t make good choices and you see how that hurt others.