Arctic Explorer

The Story of Matthew Henson

From the Series Trailblazer Biographies

  • Interest Level: Grade 5 - Grade 9
  • Reading Level: Grade 6

Through howling snowstorms and over treacherous sheets of ice, Matthew Henson and Robert Peary raced against other explorers and death itself to be the first to reach the North Pole. After six expeditions and eighteen years, they finally planted the American flag at the top of the world on April 6, 1909. Because he was a black man, Henson had to start out as Peary’s servant. But with his intelligence, bravery, and resourcefulness, Matthew Henson soon became Peary’s chief assistant.

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Interest Level Grade 5 - Grade 9
Reading Level Grade 6
Copyright 1989
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint First Avenue Editions ™
Language English
Number of Pages 80
Publication Date 1989-08-01
Reading Counts! Level 5.5
Reading Counts! Points 5.0
Text Type Narrative Nonfiction
BISACS JNF007090, JNF007040
Dewey 910'.92
Graphics 1-color illustrations
Dimensions 6.875 x 9
Lexile 1040
Guided Reading Level W
ATOS Reading Level 6.2
Accelerated Reader® Quiz 15503
Accelerated Reader® Points 2.0
Features Afterword, Awards, Bibliography/further reading, Index, Primary source quotations/images, Reviewed, Source notes, Table of contents, and Teaching Guides

Author: Jeri Ferris

Lerner eSource™ offers free digital teaching and learning resources, including Common Core State Standards (CCSS) teaching guides. These guides, created by classroom teachers, offer short lessons and writing exercises that give students specific instruction and practice using Common Core skills and strategies. Lerner eSource also provides additional resources including online activities, downloadable/printable graphic organizers, and additional educational materials that would also support Common Core instruction. Download, share, pin, print, and save as many of these free resources as you like!

Trailblazer Biographies

Struggling to overcome adversity to accomplish their goals, the men and women featured in these inspiring biographies blazed a trail through history. Fulfills sixth grade social sciences, social studies, and history curriculum needs. View available downloads →


  • Carter G. Woodson Book Award, Winner, 1989
  • NCSS/CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People, Winner, 1989
  • NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12, Winner, 1989



“Ferris’s gripping chronicle of the explorers’ six perilous attempts over 18 years to reach the North Pole includes diary quotes that vividly re-create scenes of the arctic winter. . . A solid asset, filled with intriguing expedition photos, that can be used for research on explorers and in black studies courses.”

Science Books & Films

“Ferris sets the record straight with her eloquent descriptions of Henson’s humility, his many remarkable achievements, and his invaluable service to Peary. The book also provides a good selection of black-and-white photographs, helpful maps, and a useful biography.”
Science Books & Films

School Library Journal

“Accurately written and filled with precise details about Arctic survival skills and Inuit customs, the book is a jewel of an adventure story. With black-and-white photographs, a bibliography of primary and secondary sources, and an index, it’s a worthwhile and up-to-date addition to the biography section.”
School Library Journal