Friday, June 8, 2012

Book Review: Henry's Freedom Box


1. Bibliography:                 

Levine, Ellen. Henry’s Freedom Box. By Kadir Nelson. New York, NY: Scholastic Press. ISBN: 9780439777339

2. Plot Summary:

This true story of Henry Box Brown is a story of a child born into slavery in America who traveled the Underground Railroad. Henry was born on a plantation and when his master passed away, he was sold to the master’s brother to work. Because of this he had to leave his mother and siblings at a very young age. Henry’s new master was not kind and he would beat his slaves causing Henry to fear for his life. 

After several years had passed, Henry met a slave named Nancy. Eventually, Henry and Nancy got married and had several children. Life was good until one fateful day when Henry’s wife and kids got sold at a slave auction. Knowing that he would never see his family again, Henry decided to seek freedom. He met several white men in town that were against slavery, who ended up helping Henry “mail” himself to Philadelphia where he could be free. Henry traveled in a box from Richmond, VA to Philadelphia, PA in 27 hours! Upon arrival in Philadelphia, Henry was officially a free man. 

3. Critical Analysis:

Levine’s writing is crisp and to the point. Her words perfectly paint a picture of what life was like as a slave in the mid 1800’s. The main character, Henry, is someone that you can immediately connect with on an emotional level. Levine’s use of words allows the readers to feel what Henry is feeling from beginning to end. Since this story is based on a true story, the plot is very believable, even though it’s hard to imagine being cramped in a box for 27 hours! The point of the story is for the reader to learn about a slave's trials and tribulations. Due to Henry's determination he was able to succeed in becoming a free citizen.  Since this story took place during the time of slavery (which is obviously no longer legal) I felt that Levine did an excellent job of portraying what it was like to live during those times. 

Nelson’s illustrations exceeded my expectations. The pictures were very realistic, and fit the time period perfectly. His drawings look like they were drawn from a long time ago and they are very detail oriented. They complement the story well, without distracting the reader by taking away from the written word.

Besides being well written and beautifully illustrated, this book is a great book to teach about America’s history and how African Americans had to fight for their freedom. There are many lessons to be learned from this book and I highly recommend it. 

4. Review Excerpts:

Cooperative Children's Book Center Best of the Year

Caldecott Honor

Starred Review from Kirkus Reviews: "Nelson's powerful portraits add a majestic element to Levine's history-based tale...sonorous prose that makes a perfect match for the art, this is a story of pride and ingenuity that will leave readers profoundly moved..."

Starred Review from Booklist: "'s the dramatic artwork that brings this emphatically to life." 

5. Connections:

*Other books illustrated and/or written by Kadir Nelson:
Nelson, Kadir. Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans. ISBN: 9780061730740
Robinson, Sharon. Testing the Ice: A True Story of Jackie Robinson. By: Kadir Nelson. ISBN: 9780545052511

*A letter from Kadir Nelson on how he created the illustrations for this historical fiction picture book:

*Henry’s Freedom Box lesson plan from Scholastic:

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