Title: Henry's Freedom Box
Author: Ellen Levine
Illustrator: Kadir Nelson
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Flesch-Kinkaid Grade Level: 3.0
Concepts: slavery, human resources, economic history
Review: Henry, a sweet child born into slavery in the early 1800s, did not know his exact age but did know that he wanted freedom. That aching desire to escape the bonds of slavery deepened when the plantation’s dying owner, rather than set him free, gave Henry to his son. Years of hard work in the new master’s factory under terrible conditions, and another agonizing separation from beloved family members, strengthened Henry’s resolve to find a way out. With the help of members of the Underground Railroad, Henry stowed himself inside a wooden crate and was delivered through the post to Philadelphia.
This inspiring book is based on the true story of Henry “Box” Brown, one of the most famous people to escape slavery through the Underground Railroad. The reader cannot help but feel moved by Henry’s sadness and courage through the poignant illustrations; these stunning paintings rightly led the book to garner recognition as a Caldecott Honor Book in 2008. With the U.S. government having issued a formal apology to African Americans for slavery, Henry’s Freedom Box constitutes a valuable resource for teaching younger children about some of the heart-wrenching experiences and harsh working conditions that were associated with slavery.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children