Ain't Nothing But a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry by Scott Reynolds Nelson with Marc Aronson
In addtion to telling a great story about a historical mystery, this book also offers a first class look into how a historian works. The author believes that he has found the real John Henry of the famous folk song in the person of a black prisoner who was sent to work for the C&O Railroad during Reconstruction. That story is compelling by itself, but the story of how the discoveries about John Henry were made is just as interesting. The book explains how the author tracked down elusive primary sources and then used them to connect the dots to make a coherent whole. Period photographs and illustrations, along with side notes, illuminate the text.Marc Aronson's contribution is very readable section called "How to be a Historian." An annotated bibliography, notes about sources, and an index are included. Black history and American history studies can be enhanced by this book. A creative music teacher could use it as well.Grades 4-8.