The Real John Henry?

Ain’t Nothing But a Man by Scott Reynolds Nelson is a book that strives to answer a question that I’ve heard over and over as I’ve read John Henry stories to students.  Was John Henry a real person?  Nelson documents the questions he asked himself and the numerous sources that he sought out in his journey to find the answer to this question.  Although this book doesn’t give quite enough information about all of the details that Nelson uncovers, it does lay out how difficult it can be to find the answers to your wonderings.  Nelson had to ask numerous times at libraries for records to be released for him to review.  It seemed that no matter where he turned, he ran into roadblocks in his research.  I loved the realistic description of how fun and challenging research can be.  In the end, Nelson provides substantial evidence to give the answer to his question.  You’ll have to read to find out if John Henry really was a real person.  At the conclusion of the book, Nelson:

  • tells how his research will continue (as all research should)
  • explains what it takes to be a historian with 6 stages of work & descriptions
  • gives suggestions for further reading with descriptions of what each reading contains
  • includes a note about the sources he used
  • includes some information about the different versions of the John Henry son

If you have ever been interested in learning more about John Henry and who he may have been or if you are interested in what it takes to crack open a historical mystery, stop by the media center and check this book out today.

Almost Astronauts

I don’t consider myself an avid reader of nonfiction, but there was something about this book that begged me to read it. I’m so glad I did because it pushed me to see another side of the space program, a side that I probably wouldn’t have really paused to think about had it not been for this book. Almost Astronauts is about the Mercury 13. Thirteen women took rigorous tests that were much more demanding that those faced by men all in the hopes of being considered for the space program. There were multiple barriers in their way, and in the end, they never became astronauts due to their gender. However, they did pave the way for women to become astronauts years after their own struggles to become astronauts. Some of the shocking aspects of this book for me were things said by John Glenn and Lyndon Johnson. I’ve always thought of John Glenn as a hero, but this book pushed me to see him as a heroic man who did not believe that women or minorities should ever be allowed to become astronauts. Lyndon Johnson viewed women as a minority and believed that if women became astronauts then all minorities would have to be allowed to become astronauts. This book does not hold back in revealing how even today, women are not receiving the recognition that they deserve within certain fields. Even the way the news broadcast stories about astronauts is challenged in this book. This book is for anyone who has a dream and needs inspiration for how to never give up, even when you aren’t achieving your dream. It’s for girls and boys, men and women. I’m so glad that I took time to read and I hope you do too.  Stop by our media center to check it out or look for it in a bookstore or public library near you.