Project Description

Teacher’s Guide

Keep On!

The Story of Matthew Henson, Co-discoverer of the North Pole

by Deborah Hopkinson
illustrated by Stephen Alcorn

This stunning picture book offers a riveting account of African-American explorer Matthew Henson’s 1909 journey to the North Pole with Admiral Peary.

Matthew Henson was born just after the Civil War, a time when slavery had been abolished, but few opportunities were available for black people. As a child, Henson exhibited a yearning for adventure, embarking at age thirteen on a five-year voyage sailing the seven seas. Henson’s greatest adventure began when Robert Peary invited him to join an expedition to the North Pole. After many storms, injuries, and unimaginable cold, on April 1, Peary, Henson, and four Inuit men began the final 133-mile push to the Pole.

Award-winning author Deborah Hopkinson pays tribute to a great but under-recognized figure from America’s past in this remarkable story. Illustrator Stephen Alcorn’s large-format, stylized ink-and-watercolor illustrations capture all the action. Excerpts from Henson’s expedition diaries, a time line, and an epilogue place the story in its historical context.

Format: Hardcover
Price: $17.95
ISBN: 978-1-56145-473-0
Publication Date: 1/2/2009
Page Count: 36
Size: 11-1/4″ x 9-3/4″
Age Range: 6 – 10
Language: English
Format: Paperback
Price: $7.95
ISBN: 978-1-56145-886-8
Publication Date: 10/1/2015
Page Count: 36
Size: 11-1/4″ x 9-3/4″
Age Range: 6 – 10
Language: English
Format: eBook
ISBN: 978-1-68263-308-3
Age Range: 6 – 10
Language: English

Purchase this eBook through the following vendors:

Barnes & Noble

AR Level: 5.9
F&P: GRL S, Gr 4, Genre B
Lexile: AD1080L
Themes: African-American History, Perseverance, Polar Exploration, Strength
BISAC 1: JUV004020 JUVENILE FICTION / Biographical / United States
BISAC 2: JUV016050 JUVENILE FICTION / Historical / Exploration & Discovery
BISAC 3: JUV030120 JUVENILE FICTION / People & Places / Polar Regions


“Sturdy prose…stylized illustrations range from images of classic Americana to organic figures in motion…” ―Publishers Weekly

“Henson’s story is dramatic, although the narrative voice is soft as velvet, while Stephen Alcorn’s artwork appears both washed in bitter cold and defrosted by its hand-tinted quality.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“Large in scale and often handsome…” ―Booklist

“Strikingly illustrated…articulate and straightforward prose…” ―School Library Journal

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“Verselike blocks of text…Alcorn’s illustration capture his awe…” ―News and Observer

“Beautiful and informative picture book…” ―The Carroll News

“There is plenty of action in Keep On! for young readers.” ―The San Francisco Chronicle

“One of the most heart-warming stories I’ve read in a long time…Hopkinson stimulates the reader’s imagination with her unique writing style, using Henson’s own words as text, then following them up with her own lively narrative, making for a very interesting read…I usually pass along the books I review, but this one is going into my special collection.” ―Picture Book Depot

“Fascinating and beautifully written…” ―Through the Looking Glass

Read Less


Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People ―National Council for the Social Studies, Children’s Book Council, 2010

Oregon Book Awards (Winner, Children’s Picture Book) ―Literary Arts, 2009

Kansas State Reading Circle Recommended Reading List (Intermediate) ―Kansas National Education Association, 2010

Land of Enchantment Book Awards (Picture Narrative Master List) ―New Mexico Library Association, New Mexico Council of IRA, 2012-2013

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Meet the Author

Deborah Hopkinson

Deborah Hopkinson is the award-winning author of numerous critically acclaimed picture and chapter books, including Keep On!Sweet Land of LibertyUnder the Quilt of Night; and Shutting Out the Sky: Life in the Tenements of New York 1880-1924. She lives in Oregon. You can visit her website here.

Meet the Illustrator

Stephen Alcorn has illustrated numerous books for young people, including Keep On! and Yours for Justice, Ida B. Wells. He lives in Virginia. You can visit  his website here.