Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story

Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story

Ellen Levine
Illustrator:  Kadir Nelson 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 4 to 8
Scholastic, 2007   ISBN: 978-0439777339

Henry is a little boy who lives and works with his mother, his sisters, and his brothers in a big house. The big house and Henry and his family are all owned by Henry’s master who is a southern slave owner. Henry’s mother fears that their master might sell or give Henry away and this is just what the master does; he gives Henry away to his son. And so Henry leaves his family and goes to work in his new master’s factory processing tobacco leaves. If he makes a mistake he gets beaten.

One by one the lonely years go by. Henry meets another slave called Nancy. The two fall in love, get married, and have children of their own. They are a happy family until the terrible day when Henry’s wife and children are sold and taken away. Now Henry’s life is grim and empty. Is there no way to be free? Isn’t there anything he can do to get away from miserable life?

In the end Henry asks an anti-slavery white doctor to help him escape; he asks the doctor to mail Henry to a place where there is no slavery. This the doctor agrees to do and thus begins a most extraordinary journey to freedom.

This is the true story of Henry “Box” Brown who was one of thousands of slaves who managed to escape slavery on the Underground Railroad. There can be no doubt that Henry’s story is one of the most unusual ones of its kind and it shows readers how truly desperate people like Henry became to find freedom. Beautifully written and richly illustrated, this picture book serves as a fitting tribute to Henry and to the many other slaves who faced numerous dangers so that they could build a new life for themselves.

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