Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad

Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad


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A stirring, dramatic story of a slave who mails himself to freedom by a Jane Addams Peace Award-winning author and a Coretta Scott King Award-winning artist.

Henry Brown doesn't know how old he is. Nobody keeps records of slaves' birthdays. All the time he dreams about freedom, but that dream seems farther away than ever when he is torn from his family and put to work in a warehouse. Henry grows up and marries, but he is again devastated when his family is sold at the slave market. Then one day, as he lifts a crate at the warehouse, he knows exactly what he must do: He will mail himself to the North. After an arduous journey in the crate, Henry finally has a birthday -- his first day of freedom.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780439777339
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date: 01/01/2007
Pages: 40
Sales rank: 22,677
Product dimensions: 9.30(w) x 11.10(h) x 0.50(d)
Lexile: AD490L (what's this?)
Age Range: 5 - 8 Years

About the Author

How did people escape on the Underground Railroad? What was it like to land on Ellis Island?How did it feel to travel the Oregon Trail in a covered wagon? Ellen Levine has revealed worldsof fascinating adventure with her nonfiction books for young readers.

Although Ellen Levine enjoys reading and writing fiction, most of her books for young readershave been nonfiction. “Writing nonfiction lets me in behind the scenes of the story. I enjoylearning new things and meeting new people, even if they lived 200 years ago.”

“Real heroes,” Levine says, “aren't necessarily on TV or in the news. They can be ordinarypeople who are willing to take risks for causes they believe in. Nonfiction offers a way tointroduce young readers to real people who have shown tremendous courage, even when facedwith great danger. All of us have the potential. And one doesn't have to be a grown-up,” sheadds.

When she's not writing, Levine likes to share the excitement of research and the importance ofaccuracy with young readers. “Many young people think research is dull; you go to anencyclopedia, copy information, give it a title, and call it a report.” Using her books asexamples, Ellen explains how to get other, more interesting information. “I may not mention theexact words, but I talk to young people about primary and secondary sources. If I'm speakingwith third graders, I ask them, 'Where would I go if I wanted to find out what it's like to be athird grader?' Most will say, 'Read a book.' But when they say, 'Ask a third grader,' I knowthey've understood what I mean by a primary source of inspiration.”

For If You Were an Animal Doctor, for example, Ellen witnessed an emergency operation on acow. While doing research in Wyoming for Ready, Aim, Fire!, her biography of Annie Oakley,she got to hold the gun Ms. Oakley is believed to have shot in the presence of the Queen ofEngland. “It gave me such a strong feeling about this person,” she says. “That's part of research,too.”

Ellen Levine is the author of many acclaimed books, both fiction and nonfiction. Among them:If You Traveled West in a Covered Wagon, If Your Name Was Changed at Ellis Island, I Hate English!, If You Lived at the Time of Martin Luther King, and Secret Missions. Her recent book, Freedom's Children: Young Civil Rights Activists Tell Their Own Stories, was named one of the Ten Best Children's Books of the Year by The New York Times, and Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association.

Ellen divides her time between New York City and Salem, New York.

Kadir Nelson illustrated two Caldecott Honor Books: MOSES and HENRY'S FREEDOM BOX. ELLINGTON WAS NOT A STREET by Ntozake Shange won the Coretta Scott King Award. Will Smith’s JUST THE TWO OF US won an NAACP Image Award, and his new book, WE ARE THE SHIP continues to garner major awards. Nelson showed artistic talent at age 3 and began working in oils by age 16. He lives with his family in San Diego, California.

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Henry's Freedom Box 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 58 reviews.
Deb-chan More than 1 year ago
Freedom is such a powerful term, something many have fought for and either lost or won. In Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine, illustrated by Kadir Nelson and published by Scholastic Press in 2007, the main character expresses the urge to find his freedom. A young black boy named Henry, who has not even been reserved the right to have a birthday, is a slave in the one of the southern states in North America during the times of slavery. He is first taken away from his mother and then must also part with his wife and children when they are sold just like he was. In muted shades of brown, orange, red, and splashes of other colors, Kadir Nelson portrays Henry's life. The illustrations are absolutely beautiful and truly realistic. Levine tells the story of Henry as he grows up and experiences slavery first hand. But the major clincher for this story is whether he gets his freedom and how he gets it. Children as well as adults will enjoy the written word as well as the pictures in this book. This book loosely based on a real person tells a classic tale that should bring sorrow as well as pleasure at the end of the story.
dmcdine More than 1 year ago
Close your eyes if you will and imagine what it would be like to curl up in a box and ship yourself as cargo. Hard to imagine isn't it. For one brave salve, Henry Brown, this became his way to escape to freedom. Sold away from his family as a child, Henry Brown did what many slaves had to do. They accepted their lives as slaves, but continued to dream of freedom. Henry soon found himself married with two children and the reality of being separated loomed each day. Their greatest free now reality exploded before Henry as he watched helplessly as his family was dragged away. A man who found happiness from within and with his family, Henry became withdrawn and resolved to escape to freedom. His ingenious idea of mailing himself as cargo and with the assistance of a white doctor, Henry did just that. Come along on this heart wrenching journey to freedom through the true story of Henry "Box" Brown. You'll find your heartbeat racing for his safety.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Henry, after losing his family, decides to escape from slavery. The story is moving and sensitive. Children are able to identify with Henry and his decisions, and they are empathetic to his situation. While the topic is difficult, the author manages to present the topic with a positive spin of personal choice and risk. Every child should hear this book read aloud.
PatriciaJL More than 1 year ago
Henry Brown is born a slave (he doesn't have a choice about it). After being separated from his parents he is sent to work in a tobacco factory, where the conditions. Henry then meets and falls in love with Nancy, who is also a slave. Because both of them are slaves, they have to get permission from their owner to marry - which they do. Soon they start a family together. Then their owner sells Nancy and their kids to another man far away. Henry is separated from his family once again, never to see them. Henry no longer wants to be a slave and desires nothing more than freedom.... he "sends" himself to the north, where he obtain freedom, in a box. This book is very touching, emotional and nothing short of affecting. Henry Brown is a man who never gives up and follows his dreams, no matter what his circumstances are. Henry Brown's courage is something to be admired and transcends time. Levin's writing style is very simple while carrying a very heavy topic and themes (:slavery, courage, determination). Kadir Nelson's illustrations are out of this world! While the images have a vintage touch to them, they pop out the page with the hint of realism. This book would be perfect to help promote history, multiculturalism, and the themes that it presents.
AnnaBoo22 More than 1 year ago
This Caldecott Honor Book introduces a young slave by the name of Henry, who doesn't know his age and lives on a plantation with his mother and siblings. Henry's master is ill and sends him to work for his son and in the process forces Henry to leave his family. Henry, as an adult, meets Nancy whom he later marries and has a family with. One day Henry's wife and children are sold, and after many days of loneliness he makes the decision to mail himself to freedom. This book is a true story about Henry "Box" Brown, who with the help of friends was able to mail himself in a crate to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and freedom. I would recommend this book for younger children, in grades such as first through third. The text is simple, yet expresses its points and emotions clearly to its audience. The illustrations enhance the text so that the reader has a visual understanding to support the story's content. The younger children can relate to Henry because of his age and since that particular connection exists, wonderful discussions can arise in classrooms. Information that may be considered objective is the topic of slavery, that fact that Henry was not reunited with his family, or that Henry forced himself into a crate. This questionable information can all be defended if topics like slavery and the Underground Railroad are taught about and explained by adults to the children. The powerful storyline and dynamic character made this book an amazing read and a joy to share with other readers.
denissedl More than 1 year ago
This book has a very powerful storyline that describes the time of slavery. I love this book because it focuses on the point of view of a younger child. Teaching such a controversial subject such as slavery, is made a little more realistic with this book. I truly enjoy the raw truth in the situation presented within the story. Not only will children be interested, but adults can appreciate this book as well.
jdykes More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this book! The illustrations were beautiful and the story was touching. One thing that I particularly liked about this book was that it was a true story. There are not many children's books about slavery and civil rights issues so I think that it would be a great book to read to students. I also think that it would touch them much more because it is factual. Parts of the book were sad, but that is appropriate for that time and place. It would not be as believeable if the story was happy and cheerful. I think that this is such an important part of history that children need to be aware of and reading this book aloud to a class would open the doors to discussion about slavery.
Pangle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Henry's Freedom Box is a true story from the Underground Railroad. Before even reading the words, the amazing illustration of Henry as a little boy on the cover of the book will mesmerize readers; the story begins in the little boy's eyes. This is a story of a little boy, born as a slave but not willing to live as one. Henry was sold to his Master's son and taken away from his family. He later married a slave woman and had a family. Then is happened to him. His own children were taken from him, sold, just as he was as a child. As he wiped his tears, his wife was gone too. Henry couldn't do it anymore. The life song had been taken from his heart and his mind. With help from two friends, Henry fit himself into a box and sent himself to freedom. This courageous story with fantastic art work will enlighten its readers, young and old.
shelbyweryavah on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is about a young boy who is a slave. He grows up as a slave longing to be free. He thinks all his hopes and dreams disapear when his wife and children are taken away from him; sold to another master. One bright idea will set him free.I loved this book! It gives a little glimpse of how the slaves wanted to be free with all their heart; not like the old stories you hear where the slaves were jus people that didnt belong and criminals. I could read this book over and over again.One extension would have to be talking about the slave trade and how horrible the slaves were treated, that they are people just like everyone else, and how it isn't right to sell people for labor. Alot of children would worry their parents would sell them so we would talk about how it isn't done today. My students would also make their own freedom box. They will decorate it any way they like.
soonergirlam on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Summary:Henry is a slave as a child and also as an adult. He has a wife and children. His wife and kids are sold to another master, but Henry is not. He devises a plan to escape slavery to try to locate his family. Personal Reaction:I thought this was a great book to portray a different side to slavery. It adds a human touch to slavery. It helps people connect to Henry because we understand his pain from being seperated from his family.Classroom Extensions:#1: I would use this book to accompany a social studies lesson on slavery and the underground railroad. I would read this book to the class to show them what slaves went through to gain freedom.#2: I would have them write a journal entry about what they would do if in Henry's situation.
LeilaniKTaylor on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Henry was a slave that was separated from his family as a boy, and then as an adult, separated from his wife and children. Henry decided to mail himself to freedom. With the help of some friends, he safely arrived to Philadephia, after shipping himself in a box to some friends. This story gave me goosebumps in the beginning. It was good to read about slavery in perspective of how families had to feel about never seeing the people they loved again. You can't help but wonder if his wife and children ever heard the stories of the man who mailed himself to freedom, and if they knew it was him. This would be a good book while talking about slavery, or even during black history month. The students can take turns getting into a box to see how it would have felt being thrown around and smashed in there upside down for all that time.
jaykay2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
SUmmary: Henry was a slave since he was a little boy. He worked for his master and fell in love with a young girl who soon became his wife. They had a few kids and were able to live together and Henry was a happy man. One day, everything changed. His kids and wife were taken away from him and sold to a new master. He knew he would never see them again. Henry was heartbroken. Henry decided to mail himself to freedom in Philadelphia. He sat in a box for about 24 hours with a few pieces of bread. At last, he was free. Personal Reaction:I enjoyed this book because it shows how emotionally painful slavery could be and the extensions it made people come to. It is also told in a point of view the students would be able to connect with. Extension Ideas:I would have my students make a collage of family pictures and then have them write about how they would feel if they were separated from them. I would have my students make their own version of their freedom box. It would be a small box they can decorate and every time they have a problem they can write it down on a piece of paper and put it in the box. Then they could show their parents or me and we could work to fix it together and they would be free of that stress.
rwheeler08 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Genre: BiographyCritique of Genre: This is an excellent example of a biography because it tells the true story of Henry ¿Box¿ Brown who mailed himself in a box from Richmond, Virginia to Philadelphia in order to gain his freedom. Age: Primary, IntermediateCritique of Plot: (See star rating above)
AngelaPrice on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Henry¿s Freedom Box is a Historical Fiction book that tells the story of Henry, an African American slave who decides to risk everything to gain his freedom. After spending his early years with a relatively kind owner, he is sold into less desirable circumstances. Henry finds a wife and lives as well as a slave can manage until his wife and children are ripped from his arms and sold. Henry enlists the help of an anti-slavery group and mails himself to Philadelphia. The reader travels along with Henry as he mourns the loss of his family and is packaged in a crate to be tossed about on his way to freedom in Philadelphia.While reading this book during Children¿s Literature class, my heart was in my throat. The beautiful illustrations and well-written story grabbed me from the beginning. I enjoyed it so much that I came home and ordered my own copy.In the classroom I would show an illustration from the book (perhaps the cover without the title) and ask the students to tell Henry¿s story. We¿d then read the book together & discuss how the story differed from our initial perceptions. This would be an excellent book to serve as an introduction to a unit on the underground railroad and some of the chief anti-slavery activists.
virginiapollard on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Henry's Freedom Box is a true story about a slave named Henry Brown who shipped himself in a crate from Virginia to Pennsylvania. The book captures Henry's story in a way that children can enjoy and understand. My students love to hear about the conditions Henry suffered in the box on his journey. After reading the book, I always have my students imagine they are Henry and write about their journey to freedom. They make great stories!
bestwhensimple on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a touching book for children. It tells the story of Henry Brown, a slave who decides to mail himself to freedom after his family is sold away into slavery. Henry's story is heart-breaking, and heart-warming. He's sold into slavery and separated from his mother, then he falls in love and starts a family, only to have it taken away from him. It's interesting and smart to include Henry's early life, because it shows the range of hardships that a slave faced, and it also connects with children who are the same age as Henry when he is sold away from his mother. Despite Henry's tribulations, he still has hope to live a better life than the one he already had as a slave. He triumphs over adversity by the end of the story. When he finally arrives in Philadelphia, it feels like a celebration! The illustrations by Kadir Nelson are fantastic. They convey so much emotion. The cover image is powerful in its simplicity. When Henry's wife, Nancy, warns him that having a family under slavery is a precarious position to be in, there is a close-up illustration of Henry's pensive face. I also loved the illustrations of Henry inside the box. They added a bit of humor to this exceptional story. This book is a great introduction of the history of slavery for children. A must-read!
adrianneosmus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Henry's Freedom Box is a great book about a boy's struggle with slavery. Henry has always been a slave but got to stay with his family until one day he was given to another master. He worked hard in his master's tobacco factory. He fell in love with another slave, They married and had children. He was always scared that his family would be sold. His family got sold and Henry was very upset. Henry wanted to be free so he got into a box and wanted to be mailed to freedom. Did he make it too freedon?This is a very good book. This book does a very good job at displaying slavery and the means that slaves would go to for freedom. This is a book that I would use in my classroom.You could have your students write a story, having them protray a child in slavery. You could also let them talk about the different things that might have happened to Henry while he was in the box.
eburkham on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is a book about the Underground Railroad. Henry was a slave who doesn¿t even know how old he was because slaves were not aloud to have birthdays. Henry¿s master sold him to his son. Henry falls in love and is aloud to marry her. They have children and everything seems to be going smoothly. One day when Henry was working he learns that his wife and children were being sold because their owner needed money. Henry was heartbroken. He meets a man that will help him to mail himself to the north so he could become a free man. The book broke my heart. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be owned and sold with no voice in the matter. Extension Ideas:I would have my students research the Underground Railroad and find out other ways the slaves were transported so they could become free instead of just by mail. I would also have my students do a research paper on black history. I would have them research and find out more information such as when slavery was abolished and how long it took for African Americans to get the right to vote.
phyllistinefoster on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is an African - American boy named Herny, who is a slave. He wanted his freedom but, was given to his master's son. Herny mets another slave named Nancy. Their slave owners allows them to get married. Eventually, Nancy and the children were traded. Herny was not allowed to see them off. For a long time Herny was sad but, he was determined to get his freedom. Herny got help from two men named James and Dr. Smith. They put him in a box and crate and mailed him to Pennsylvania. He made it to Pennsylvania and was given a birthday and a full name. Henry had received his freedom.This book has great illustrations and pictures. I became emotional when his family was sold, but when he obtained his freedom it made me happy. This book is a great way to explain slavery to younger children.This book can be read during Black History Month, after reading can ask the children to talk about their feelings about his family being traded, bring a box and crate to class let the children climb in and ask them how does it feel to be in the box? How do they think Herny felt being in the box?
ValerieStanley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Henry Brown was a slave, he didn't know how old he was or when his birthday was because slaves were not aloud to know their birthdays. When Henry got older he feel in love and married and had children. In these days slaves could be sold not matter what and Henry's wife and children were sold and taken to a different place that he would never know about. Henry got one of the doctors that didn't believe in slavery to help him mail himself away from his master's place and somewhere where there was no slavery. This is a wonderful book. I truly enjoyed everything about it. I know how important it is for people to know and understand slavery. It is a big part of the curriculum in schools all over the United States and I feel that this book is very appropriate for children. This would go good with history lessons about slavery. Any kind of activities about slavery would go good with this book.
pvhslibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This inspirational story set in the mid-1800's, shows the strength and conviction possessed by Henry "Box" Brown, a Virginia slave who devises an ingenious plan to set himself free. All Henry thinks about is gaining his freedom, and when his family is sold and taken from him, he puts together a plan to secure his freedom and hopefully reunite with his family. The story conveys the love of family and any person's desire to maintain those ties. The story is told along side beautiful illustrations by Kadir Nelson.
korikay on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This true story tells about Henry, a slave, who escapes on the Underground Railroad to Pennsylvania. The story is a good account of what happened to so many slavery prior to the Civil War. Henry loses all of the people he loves as they are sold off to new owners. The illustrations are truly wonderful and the book is certainly worthy of its honor.
sriches on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
[Henry Brown doesn't know how old he is. Nobody keeps records of slaves' birthdays. All the time he dreams about freedom, but that dream seems farther away than ever when he is torn from his family and put to work in a warehouse. When Henry grows up and marries, he is again devastated when his family is sold at the slave market. Then one day, as he lifts a crate at the warehouse, he knows exactly what he must do: He will mail himself to the North. After an arduous journey in the crate, Henry finally has a birthday -- his first day of freedom.
katitefft on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This story is a wonderful story about Henry Brown, a young slave boy who never had a birthday and didn't know how old he was. While this story might be considered biographical because of the account of Henry Brown's life, it may also be considered historical fiction because of any exaggerations that occured, despite its being set in a real time and place in history. This book will enlighten readers to what it was like for slaves during the early 1800's. It will increase awareness and promote sensitivity to other people's life experiences. Overall, I would highly recommend this book for the wonderful themes woven throughout the story, as well as for the wonderful illustrations that engage readers of all ages.
rbelknap on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is a wonderful example of a historical fiction picture book. This book tells the story of Henry Brown who was a slave during the 1800s. He decided he wanted to be free so with the help of some other people he had himself shipped north to Philadelphia. This book was inspired by Henry "Box" Brown's life and accomplishment of shipping himself to freedom.Age Appropriateness: late primary, intermediate, middleMedia: Tempra paint