Citation: Levine, E. (2007). Henry’s freedom box. New York, NY: Scholastic Press.
Summary: An informative, historical story about a slave named Henry Brown. Born a slave, Henry doesn’t know his birthday because slave birthdays are not considered important and no one keeps track of that type of information. After he marries and has children, something tragic occurs to his family and now even more than before, Henry desires to be free. He decides to mail himself to Philadelphia in order to finally reach his dream and although he doesn’t get to see his loved ones, he now has a birthday which is the day he became free.
Impression: Peace, Love and a Definite Read!
This book is one of my faves because Henry does get his freedom he deserves. It’s a little heartbreaking because of the trials he goes through because he is a slave. It does bring a peaceful feeling because he gets his wish to be free and I think it is a definite must read for everyone. I even read it aloud to three of my fellow co-workers because I thought it was such a great story.
Reviews: In a true story that is both heartbreaking and joyful, Levine recounts the history of Henry “Box” Brown, born into slavery. Henry works in a tobacco factory, marries another slave, and fathers three children; but then his family is sold, and Henry realizes he will never see them again. With nothing to lose, Henry persuades his friend James and a sympathetic white man to mail him in a wooden box to Philadelphia and freedom. Levine maintains a dignified, measured tone, telling her powerful story through direct, simple language. A note at the end explains the historical basis for the fictionalized story. Accompanying Levine’s fine, controlled telling are pencil, watercolor, and oil paint illustrations by Kadir Nelson that resonate with beauty and sorrow. When Henry’s mother holds him as a child on her lap, they gaze out at bright autumn leaves, and the tenderness is palpable, even as she calls to his attention the leaves that “are torn from the trees like slave children are torn from their families.” There is no sugarcoating here, and Henry is not miraculously reunited with his wife and children; however, the conclusion, as Henry celebrates his new freedom, is moving and satisfying.
Lempke, S. (2007). Henry's Freedom Box. Horn Book Magazine, 83(2), 186-187.
Gr 2-5 — Inspired by an actual 1830s lithograph, this beautifully crafted picture book briefly relates the story of Henry "Box" Brown's daring escape from slavery. Torn from his mother as a child, and then forcibly separated from his wife and children as an adult, a heartsick and desperate Brown conspired with abolitionists and successfully traveled north to Philadelphia in a packing crate. His journey took just over one full day, (hiring which he was often sideways or upside down in a wooden crate large enough to hold him, but small enough not to betray its contents. The story ends with a reimagining of the lithograph that inspired it, in which Henry Brown emerges from his unhappy confinement — in every sense of the word — and smiles upon his arrival in a comfortable Pennsylvania parlor. Particularly considering the broad scope of Levine's otherwise well-written story, some of the ancillary "facts" related in her text are unnecessarily dubious; reports vary, for instance, as to whether the man who sealed Henry into the crate was a doctor or a cobbler. And, while the text places Henry's arrival on March 30, other sources claim March 24 or 25. Nelson's illustrations, always powerful and nuanced, depict the evolution of a self-possessed child into a determined and fearless young man. While some of the specifies are unfortunately questionable, this book solidly conveys the generalities of Henry Brown's story.
Threadgill, C. (2007). Henry's freedom box: A true story. School Library Journal, 53(3), 176.
Use in Library: -Pair this book with a theme unit of the slave time period which could lead into further research about other famous slaves and their successes after they gained freedom. This could also be used as a read aloud to introduce a history lesson or read aloud during African-American history month.