author: Scott Reynolds Nelson with Marc Aronson
date: National Geographic Books for Children, 2008
In Ain’t nothing but a man, Scott Reynolds walks us through his research to find out whether John Henry was a real man. His conversational tone enlivens the narrative by making both the process and the topic interesting.
Reynolds describes how he uses song lyrics, pictures and primary source documents (which are not often found on the internet) to guide his search. He uncovers not only information about John Henry, but much about life in post Civil War American that led to the song and the character we’ve come to know as John Henry.
I particularly like how Reynolds incorporated his methodology into his narrative rather than in an afterwards. I was able to see the authenticity of his work while reading and not find rather meaningful content as an aside.
Reynolds gives much value to the life of John Henry, someone most Americans get to know through a childhood song but who gave his life to build this country and yet his contributions went unmarked, as with many people of color in our history.
[This book is currently discount on Amazon selling for &7.58]