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Freedom Song: The Story of Henry "Box" Brown

3.85  ·  Rating Details ·  179 Ratings  ·  68 Reviews
Henry “Box” Brown’s ingenious escape from slavery is celebrated for its daring and originality. Throughout his life, Henry was fortified by music, family, and a dream of freedom. When he seemed to lose everything, he forged these elements into the song that sustained him through the careful planning and execution of his perilous journey to the North.

Honoring Henry’s determ
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published January 3rd 2012 by HarperCollins
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Kari Martycz
Mar 10, 2015 Kari Martycz rated it liked it
Shelves: historical-fic
Sally Walkers depiction of "Henry's Box" explains his story of escaping slavery. Henry loved singing, which helped him and his family get through tough times. Henry and his family were slaves, and he was always scared that him and his family would be sold to other masters. Henry was sold to a tobacco farm master, where he met his wife Nancy, who he had many children with. Henry was devastated when his master sold his wife Nancy and children. Henry needed to find his family, so he began talking a ...more
Jun 19, 2015 April rated it it was ok
Shelves: multicultural
Reflection: This book made me think of other books about the underground railroad. Since I was little, social studies was always my favorite subject and I loved reading books about our history, especially stories about the underground railroad.

Rational: This book is culturally specific because it tells the story of the lives of slaves and portrays the fears they had during that time in our history.

Remembering: Who was the main character in the story?
Understanding: What was the main i
Angie Quinn-Clark
I enjoyed reading this remarkable story. It is a great story about slavery and how slaves were treated. I didn’t realize that this book was about a real person until I read the letter from one of the friendly people who help him escape to freedom which brought me to tears. I truly would like to know what happened to the real Henry once he went to Europe. LOVE this book!

Rebecca Saxon
A beautifully written and illustrated story that depicts one of the (many) awful aspects of slavery: the separation of families. Based on a true story, Walker depicts the escape of Henry Brown in a box. Sadly, there's no historical record if Henry is reunited with his family (but I hope so). An excellent book that can facilitate a discussion of slavery for elementary aged kids.
Sep 21, 2016 Liz rated it really liked it
Freedom Song is a children's picture book about Henry Brown, who is escaping from slavery in a shipping box in order to find his family who were sold to another slave owner. The book starts from the day he was born and addresses slavery in the most simplified way possible for children to be able to understand. It is a powerful book that covers a difficult topic but does so in an engaging and thoughtful way. It is important for children's books to be purposeful so that readers can learn something ...more
Henry Brown pulled off one of the most audacious escapes from slavery known. He was born into a family of slaves who loved him: When Henry Brown came into this world, his family sang. Mama blew kisses on his soft, brown belly. What a sweet, loving image.

Music was a tool that helped Henry grow strong and survive on the plantation. He sang his "workday song", with "lift, tote, toss-the-sack words" that strengthened his arms. He sang his "gather-up song" in the garden, with its "twist, snap, pick-a
Janette Fuller
Sep 20, 2012 Janette Fuller rated it really liked it
Shelves: children
Henry Brown was born to slave parents on a plantation in Virginia. He worked in the cotton fields as a child and he was allowed to grow-up with his parents.
Music was an important part of Henry's childhood and he always had a song in his heart and on his lips. He was afraid to voice his "freedom song", but it was always in his heart and mind.

When Henry was almost grown, he was sent to work in a tobacco factory in Richmond. He met a young slave woman named Nancy and they were allowed to get marrie
Teachers and students are sure to enjoy comparing this title to the earlier version of the story, Henry's Freedom Box. The story describes the childhood of Henry Brown, born a slave on a Southern plantation where he picked cotton but kept his spirit up through song. When he falls in love with a woman named Nancy and is unable to do anything to prevent her and their children from being sold to another master, he decides to figure a way to escape by shipping himself north. While this picture book ...more
Jun 15, 2015 Amy rated it liked it
Shelves: multicultural
Text Connection:
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When I was reading this book, especially the part where Henry recounts how he feels like his box is shrinking, I kept thinking of Anne Frank. Both characters had to hide in small, cramped, uncomfortable places. As a reader, it is hard for me to imagine having to do something like that, but reading about these various accounts of characters who suffered these hardships helps me to understand it. Both Henry and Anne managed to overcome these physical discomforts in the
Oct 01, 2012 Andi rated it really liked it
In the author's note at the end of this lovely middle grade picture book Sally Walker tell of how she first learned the real life story of Henry "Box" Brown's 1849 escape from slavery. She was a choir member and music lover, and was fascinated to later learn that Henry was a member of his church choir. She decided to tell his story with an emphasis on the power of music. Walker begins her tale with the joy and delight of a family welcoming a new baby.

The story builds as Henry grows tall on Mama
Alexandria Stephens
Freedom Song: The Story of Henry "Box" Brown is the story of a young boy born to parents who were slaves. Henry Brown worked alongside his parents in the cotton fields. He had a love for music and was said to always be singing. The music seemed to help him get through the difficulties of being a child with slave parents. As Henry grew older he moved and began work in a tobacco factory where he met another slave named Nancy. Music remained an important aspect of Henry's life after he got married ...more
Oct 28, 2012 Charolette rated it really liked it
The illustrations in the book are great and the historical background behind freedom. Henry Brown was willing to put his life at risk for freedom and did so with building to box used to ship him to freedom. Singing was Henry's way of dealing with slavery and his inspiration to be free. Once Nancy and his children were sold he became more determined to be free.

I think the author should have left the story alone by telling exactly what happened to get Henry away from the Masters plantation. This i
Matt Cole
Sep 20, 2016 Matt Cole rated it really liked it
Freedom Song: The Story of Henry "Box" Brown is a true story about a slave who grew up singing songs and eventually made his escape after his wife and children were sold to another owner. Brown escaped by hiding in a box that was delivered to the free state of Pennsylvanian at the time. The only change that Sally M. Walker made to Brown's story is that to get off of working in the cotton fields one day Brown actually threw acid on his hands, but in the book Walker has him cut one of his fingers ...more
Mar 07, 2012 Ann rated it liked it
I have to admit when I picked this up at the library I kind of asked myself, "Why?" Don't get me wrong. It's always great to have multiple biographies about interesting historical figures, like Henry "Box" Brown. But Ellen Levine and the divine Kadir Nelson published a highly-lauded and very great picture book biography about this subject not too long ago. Does the new book measure up to its predecessor? Not at all, I'm afraid. Walker's poetic writing seems out of place. The slave cabin where He ...more
Nov 19, 2012 Samantha rated it liked it
The story of Henry "Box" Brown's daring escape from slavery via a large wooden box. This story covers Brown's childhood through his marriage and the birth of his children. It uses music to link all of the pieces of Henry's story together.

The inclusion of Henry's loving childhood family serves as good background knowledge that helps readers understand his actions. I appreciated the level of detail with which his journey was described. There were moments when Henry was in grave danger, such as whe
Katelyn Lopez
Henry’s freedom box is a great children’s book that gives them a better understanding of the era of slavery. This book is about a boy named Henry who grew up in slavery. He was separated from his parents when he was a child and was sent to work with a new master. While Henry was in slavery, he met a woman whom he started a family with. He eventually ended up being separated from them as well. Henry was determined to gain freedom, so he was mailed in a wooden box all the way to Pennsylvania. I re ...more
Melissa Trumbo
An uplifting reminder of what a person's spirit can determine. This is the true story of Henry "Box" Brown who grew up as a slave and had his family sold off by their masters. When times were tough, Henry would sing the "Freedom Song" as a reminder to never give up hope. He eventually married & had two children. Unfortunately, his family was once again sold off and Henry was determined to get his family back. He wanted to escape his masters and find freedom up north. He found friends to help ...more
This is, of course, an amazing story of Henry Brown's remarkable and desperate escape from Virginia to Philadelphia in a box. Walker writes her version a song-like, repetitive narrative in the tone of a old spiritual. I was disappointed to see in her backmatter that she changed one of the facts of the story to better fit with her style. When writing one of the few well-documented stories of an escape from slavery, the details should be correct rather than altered for aesthetic purposes. Also, wh ...more
Illustrator: Sean Qualls
Publisher: Harpercollins
Date: 2012
Genre: Biography
Strength: This story tells the true story of Henry Brown as he found a way to freedom by having himself shipped in a box It speaks of determination to find a way out of hard circumstances. It speaks of the sadness and fear that slaves faced when family was ripped away from them.
Interest: I love stories that use vivid imagery and words to tell the stories of our history and people in the past that have shaped history or
Julie Esanu
I have to admit that I was skeptical about this newest account of Henry "Box" Brown's daring and unconventional escape to freedom via the Underground Railroad as I'm a huge fan of Ellen Levine's version--Henry's Freedom Box, illustrated by Kadir Nelson. However, author Sally Walker takes a more lyrical approach to the subject by incorporating songs and spirituals into the story. The illustrations bear the mark of Sean Qualll's signature style. Students are drawn to Henry's story and this book wo ...more
Casey Hudson
Jul 16, 2012 Casey Hudson rated it really liked it
Based on a true event, Freedom Song, is the story of a slave who rides his way to freedom in a shipping crate. Henry “Box” Brown was a boy with a song in his heart, and as he grew to be a man, that song was, increasingly, a song of freedom. Through a journey that almost ended in his death, Brown found his way to The North in a small box and went on to speak about abolition.

Filled with fine artistry, this book illuminates—for a new generation—the inhumanities of the slave trade and the cost of fr
CH13_ Helen Budeyskaya
Feb 28, 2013 CH13_ Helen Budeyskaya rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical-fic
This was a well written picture book, full of great literary elements. The book does a great job of depicting that time period without getting into too many details for this age group. It is a moving story about the struggles many people endured. Henry's triumphant endurance gives hope to the reader, while at the same time lets a younger reader see the hardships during this time.

The ilustrations are outstnading. They are interesting and colorful; they do a great job going along with the plot. I
Cara Byrne
Mar 22, 2015 Cara Byrne rated it liked it
Like the more recent _Henry's Freedom Box_, this picture tells the incredible story of Henry "Box" Brown, an enslaved man who hid himself in a package sent to an abolitionist in the north. Incredibly, after a long journey, he made it to his destination alive and gained his freedom. The illustrations and sentiments are sweet, but I love the drawings in _Henry's Freedom Box_, so it's difficult not to hold Qualls' drawings to this high standard. As a scholar, I appreciate the inclusion of a letter ...more
Picture book version of the story of Henry "Box" Brown. 2 starred reviews -- BCCB & SLJ. Appropriate for elementary-age students or for read aloud. Illustrations are the strongest element -- love the textured art and the use of color.

"...Dominated by subdued blues and browns, Qualls’s (Giant Steps to Change the World) artwork exudes his familiar folk art–like quality, with floating circles of various colors and patterns serving as a visual metaphor for the hope Henry’s song represents..."--
Jul 27, 2012 Liz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2012-13
It took me forever to get to this book. At first I couldn't get past my complete allegiance and love for the Levine and Nelson version, but this book really grew on me. The lyrical language appealed to me and the illustrations fit. I would like to do a comparison of the two books, and I'm looking up the actual letter that was sent by the man who first received the shipment! (It would have been neat to have a copy of the actual one, though the words are included.) Seems there are several website ...more
This is a good [but not great] version of the true story of Henry "Box" Brown. The writing was good, but I didn't care for the artwork at all. The cartoony style put me off, and the illustrations did not accurately portray the man described in the book or notes. Henry Brown was 5'8" and 200 pounds, not the scrawny guy shown in these illustrations. Definitely a letdown compared to the superior artwork in "Henry's Freedom Box" by Ellen Levine. Still, it's a story worth reading, if you don't alread ...more
Jim Erekson
Feb 05, 2013 Jim Erekson rated it liked it
When one of my friends said, "Oh, the 'happy slaves' book" I had to stop and think. The narrative portrays potential sale of family members as the only worry in Henry's life. I had also just re-watched 'Song of the South' and remembered all the flak James Baskett caught for leading the portrayal of content slaves in an idyllic rustic South. Is there such a thing as the 'lighter side of slavery'?

Sean Qualls' illustrations are in a more folk and impressionist style than Kadir Nelson's realistic p
Roberta Snyder
Nov 03, 2012 Roberta Snyder rated it really liked it
A very well written story about a very emotional and sensitive issue. I appreciate the author's straight forward way of explaining slavery and making it very understandable for children. I know a lot of teachers tend to stay away from these kind of sensitive topics. So it is very refreshing to read books that help teachers find the words to express and teach the topics that our students need to know about. The story was vey sad, but important.
Mar 21, 2012 Maddypictures rated it really liked it
A lyrical take on this fascinating true story of Henry "Box" Brown, who made his escape from slavery by sending himself in the mail to Philadelphia. "Henry was papa proud when his first child was born." Appended with a little more historical information, and the text from a letter from an abolitionist detailing the remarkable escape.
Apr 21, 2012 Megan rated it really liked it
This book is the true story of Henry "Box" Brown. He was a slave who's wife and kids were sold and taken away from him. He shipped himself in a box all the way to the north. He was stuck upside down many times and almost died. He eventually arrived and was free. There is no record whether he found his wife and kids.
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Sally M. Walker has written science books for children, including Earthquakes, an NSTA/CBC Best Science Trade Book of 1997. She lives in DeKalb, IL.
More about Sally M. Walker...

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