Much legend and mystery surrounds John Henry – the man that raced an engine and won. How do you separate fact from fiction? Many songs were written about John Henry over the years and how he was able to dig out more rock than a machine.
Ain’t Nothing But a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry by Scott Reynolds Nelson tries to dig beneath the surface and reexamines old documents and ideas to determine if the current thinking on who John Henry was, is based more on legend than on reality. Could the real John Henry have actually been in prison and part of a work gang hired out to work for the railroad company? And if so, how did he die? Was it really right after winning against the machine? Looking at the many songs that were written about this man, the author is able to uncover some possible truths about who John Henry really was, and what happened to him.
This was a super fast read, but I wish more description had been given to the actual method for going through the rock and also how the machine worked. It was a short book and I wanted more!
Recommended for 6th grade and up.