Thursday, February 4, 2016

Henry's Freedom Box

In 2007, Scholastic published Henry's Freedom Box: a True Story from the Underground Railroad by author/illustrator team Ellen Levine and Kadir Nelson. To sum up this book in one word, I would say:


Levine tells the incredibly moving true story of Henry "Box" Brown, who was born a slave and was torn from his family as "leaves are torn from the trees." When he marries and has children of his own, he one day witnesses them being carted away, sold at auction, and never to be seen again. He devises a dangerous and costly plan to mail himself in a shipping box to freedom in the North, and he succeeds.

This book is sharply different from some of the more light-hearted and whimsical stories we've discussed. It is a beautiful narrative of strength and hope, but also a heavy and heart-breaking story of a painful history. Levine's words are gentle but honest; you want the book to have a happy Hollywood ending, but she stays true to Brown's journey.

In tandem with Levine's text are Nelson's beautiful illustrations.

Nelson's full-page watercolor spreads capture the emotion that Brown and his loved ones were feeling, set against beautiful and colorful backdrops containing themes in the book. You can see in their eyes the sadness, grace, and determination in which they confronted their situation.

Together, Levine and Nelson created a powerful and important work of history and art. As a mother, it is not easy to read this imagine what Brown and his mother were feeling in the picture above when they learned he would be imagine the pain he later felt when his own children were taken from him. It is worth reading over and over and having a conversation with our kids.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this book...



  1. What a wonderful review! If you're interested, we'd love for you to link up this post with the Diverse Children's Books Link-up! You can find it at Thanks!

    1. What a great link-up! I'm excited to see what people share!

  2. I love Henry's Freedom Box. I think it is a perfect story to build empathy about this part of history.

    Thank you for sharing on Diverse Children's Book Link Up! My link up is:

  3. What a beautiful book and great review! Thanks for sharing!