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

4.44  ·  Rating Details  ·  9,233 Ratings  ·  940 Reviews
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
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published January 1st 2007 by Scholastic Press
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Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen LevineMoses by Carole Boston WeatherfordMartin's Big Words by Doreen RappaportThrough My Eyes by Ruby BridgesDave the Potter by Laban Carrick Hill
African American Picture Book Biographies
1st out of 146 books — 41 voters
Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen LevineEllington Was Not a Street by Ntozake ShangePlease, Baby, Please by Spike LeeMoses by Carole Boston WeatherfordDancing in the Wings by Debbie Allen
Best of Kadir Nelson
1st out of 29 books — 24 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Sep 05, 2015 Gundula rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone, this is a story that needs to be told
Henry's Freedom Box is a book that tugs at all of your emotions. It makes you angry, sad, despairing, happy. Above all, it should make any reasonable, any compassionate human being indignant at the inhumanity of slavery and strive for liberty, justice and equality for all. In fact, I think that Henry's Freedom Box should be required reading in every elementary school classroom, not only in the United States of America, but globally.

The fact that Henry Brown has basically no rights, that slaves
Feb 21, 2015 Ronyell rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Ronyell by: The Picture-Book Club

This is another book that I was reading for the Children’s Book Club for Black History Month and I will admit that I just loved this book to death! “Henry’s Freedom Box” is a Caldecott Honor Book by Ellen Levine along with illustrations by Kadir Nelson and it is about a runaway slave named Henry “Box” Brown who thinks of a clever plan to get out of slavery after his family is sold. “Henry’s Freedom Box” is a truly inspiring and dramatic book for children who want to learn more about the horrors
Lisa Vegan
Feb 01, 2011 Lisa Vegan rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: a good introduction to slavery & the Underground Railroad for school aged children
I read this as one of six books chosen by the Children's Books group’s Picture Books Club for its February theme of Black History Month.

The subtitle of this book is: A True Story from the Underground Railroad. It’s the true story of Henry “Box” Brown, a man who mailed himself to freedom, to a state where there was no slavery. Before I read this, I thought that it was a historical fiction story; I didn’t realize that this was a true story until I read it. This book is a seamless mix of highly dis
Dec 14, 2012 Julianna rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone Wanting to Teach Children about Slavery; Fans of Picture Books with Beautiful Artwork
Recommended to Julianna by: Readers Against Prejudice & Racism
Reviewed for THC Reviews
Henry's Freedom Box is a wonderful storybook for teaching younger children about slavery and the Underground Railroad. It is the true story of Henry “Box” Brown who mailed himself to freedom. Henry's bravery and ingenuity were inspiring to read about. It is very sad that Henry lost his entire family when they were sold and apparently was never reunited with them, but it seems that his pain may have been a driving force in his quest for freedom. He also became an internati
Feb 03, 2011 Kathryn rated it it was amazing
Excellent biography of Henry, a slave who mails himself to freedom with help from white friends on "the underground railroad." I love that it conveyed the issues and emotions so poignantly and powerfully without being too graphic or bogged down. I just felt so in-tune with what Henry was going through--I mean, obviously I have no idea what it must have really been like, but kudos to the author and illustrator for making me feel like I was "there" and that my heart had been on a remarkable journe ...more
Mar 22, 2009 Dolly rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: parents reading with their children
This is an inspirational, amazing and true story, with breathtakingly detailed and expressive illustrations. It is certainly worthy of its Caldecott Honor designation. It's a story that will take you from joy to heartache and back again in a short narrative that will captivate young elementary school-age children. We read this as one of the February 2011 selections for the Picture-Book Club in the Children's Books group here at Goodreads. I am so grateful to have been introduced to this story, a ...more
Crystal Marcos
Feb 15, 2011 Crystal Marcos rated it it was amazing
Henry's Freedom Box was a story selection for the Children’s Picture Book Club found here:

First off thank you again to the group for introducing wonderful books I may have otherwise never found! I held this book in my hands for several minutes after I read it. This isn’t a normal practice for me. I fought back tears and feelings of heartbreak at the same time thinking this was a fabulous book. I felt I was living every moment with Henry on his journey to
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Erin Ramai
Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story of the Underground Railroad is appropriate for students in grades 2-5. It received a Caldecott Honor Award in 2008.

It might seem odd, but Kadir Nelson's illustrations for this book reminded me of Brian Selznick's work in The Invention of Hugo Cabret. More than anything, the quality that seems to connect these illustrators in my mind is the crosshatching that adds texture, depth and shadow to the images in both close ups and "wide shots" of the action. To me, Nel
Anna Kļaviņa
Dec 15, 2015 Anna Kļaviņa rated it really liked it
Recommended to Anna by: Gundula
Henry Brown wasn't sure how old he was. Henry was a slave. And slaves weren't allowed to know their birthdays.

Kathy Roderer
Sep 26, 2009 Kathy Roderer rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
This true story of the time of the Underground Railroad would be a perfect companion to “Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt,” a story about Harriet Tubman, or any of the books included in a unit on the Underground Railroad. The beautiful imagery and vivid descriptions make it a perfect read aloud. Freedom is compared to an autumn leaf, as Henry’s mother says, “Do you see those leaves blowing in the wind? They are torn from the trees like slave children are torn from their families.” This also for ...more
All that is in my mind upon reading this story:

Then (March 23, 1849):

Illustration from Henry's Freedom Box
See Henry Box Brown's profile, Personal Narrative and the biography Unboxing of Henry Brown for more information about Brown's life story.

Now (May 17, 2010):
[image error]
(AP Photo/Chiapas State Attorney General)
On May 17, 513 people are found shipping themselves upright in two trucks

Is there room for Hope?
Lisa Suchy
Jan 26, 2015 Lisa Suchy rated it really liked it
Based on the true story of Henry "Box" Brown, this book not only goes through the heartache and emotions of slavery, but it is also accompanied with beautiful illustrations that cover the entire pages from top to bottom. Henry is given to his master's son when he is young, but has always had a hope to be free. Later on in his life, when his own family is taken away from him and sold, Henry has had enough. He will do whatever it takes for freedom. He is mailed across the world to Pennsylvania. Th ...more
Melissa Barbier
Oct 10, 2015 Melissa Barbier rated it really liked it
This book is very interesting because it is a true story. I liked but also disliked how simplistic some of the wording was. While it does make it accessible for children who are younger readers, it takes away from some of the very strong emotion that comes with the story. It is a very interesting story about a boy who is a slave his whole life and finally finds a way out after he grows up and has children. The illustrations are phenomenal and Kadir Nelson paints each page individually with such ...more
Michele Stalmer
The is an amazing book that can be used during a study during Black History month or a social studies piece on the Civil War. The pictures are very engaging and the expression of the characters is fantastic. It is a positive story from the not so pretty side of American History, slavery in particular. It has simple text and is easy for children to read.
Donna Nadira
Sep 28, 2015 Donna Nadira rated it it was amazing
Henry's Freedom Box (2007) tells about a man, Henry Brown, who mails himself to the North to escape slavery. The book starts Henry's story as a boy and continues up to his adulthood, and ultimately, freedom. My eyes started tearing up in the first few pages of the book, with the honest portrayal of the reality of African American people at that time.

Henry's Freedom Box has beautiful, well-lit, realistic illustrations that brings readers straight into the story, and conveys to the readers the fe
Feb 01, 2016 Margaux rated it it was amazing
I'm calling this "nonfiction" even though it's based on a true story. True to form, Nelson's illustrations beautifully and conservatively explore a very difficult topic. Henry learns at a young age that being a slave means he has no choice in the matter when his master decides to sell or give him away. When he leaves his mother, he looks to be in his early teens, but his own children are sold along with his wife, and that's the last straw. Henry decides to send himself to freedom--literally. Aft ...more
Matthew West
Dec 09, 2014 Matthew West rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: t-l-307
This book is about a slave boy named Henry Brown. Before Henry’s master is about to die he orders Henry to now leave your family and be the master’s son’s slave instead of the sometimes possible option of setting your slaves free before you pass away, this new sadness proves to be a long line of bad things for Henry. Henry goes to work for his new master and grows up over the years and finds a wonderful wife to marry and have kids with, however, soon Henry’s wife and kids are both sold to a diff ...more
Logan Goldberg
1. Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole (Nov 2012)

2. I chose to group Henry's Freedom Box with Unspoken because they both are about the Underground Railroad. Henry's Freedom Box is a true story and gives many facts about the Underground Railroad. It is very good at telling about it and giving an example of the process. I paired it with Unspoken because it is a fictional example of the same process. I feel like pairing these texts will give students repetition of learning
Carolyn Cirasole
Oct 16, 2015 Carolyn Cirasole rated it liked it
HISTORICAL FICTION---Henry's Freedom Box recounts the true story of a Slave boy named Henry and his exeriences gorwing up in during slavery. The author talks about how families are broken apart, freedom is lost, and he paints a picture of what life felt like from the perective of a slave. I like his use of imagery when talking about the leaves breaking apart from the tree , just as Henry is separted from his family. He also uses figurative language when talking about the bird flying in the sky a ...more
This is a Caldecott Award winning picture book/CD. It’s categorized as “a fictionalized account of how in 1849 a Virginia slave escapes to freedom.” Sources also categorize it as K-2 literature, but I think that’s only because it’s a picture book. Henry “Box” Brown was born into slavery, and at a young age was sold away from his family. As a young adult, Henry became married and had a family, but in the ensuing years his wife and children were sold away from him. The rest of the story is about t ...more
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
I'm going to predict that this will win a Coretta Scott King Award for illustrations in 2008. I'd read about Henry "Box" Brown in books for older children, so I'm happy to see this picture book on him. I can't imagine being cramped up in that box for days!
Oct 03, 2015 Chris rated it really liked it
Shelves: rll-538
Henry’s Freedom Box – A True Story from the Underground Railroad
Caldecott Honor Award Winner
By Ellen Levine
Illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Publisher: Scholastic Press – January 1, 2007

The poignant, true story of Henry “Box” Brown, who as a young boy, didn’t know his birthday because “slaves weren’t allowed to know their birthdays.” Ellen Levine eloquently takes us from Henry’s childhood through adulthood as a slave, where he heartbreakingly watches his wife and three children bound and sol
Kendell Garth
Mar 02, 2015 Kendell Garth rated it really liked it
Shelves: rll-539
I've spent sometime searching for an appropriate picture book for older elementary students to go with my theme on slavery and was very pleased with this choice by Ellen Levine. This book not only has breathtaking illustrations but also evokes a whirlwind of emotions from the reader. This story follows one particular boy, Henry, through his experiences as a slave and eventually his clever plan out of it. After being separated from this mother and then again from his wife and children Henry finds ...more
Mary-Lynn Kebker
Nov 21, 2015 Mary-Lynn Kebker rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wow-books
Would you like to scrunch up your body and be shoved into a box? Can you imagine what it would be like to be shoved into a box and shipped hundreds of miles to an unknown place? If not, this book puts the experience into perspective for you. Henry’s Freedom Box inspires a mixture of emotions throughout the book from awe to despair, to shock, and happiness as it takes you through the life of one slave boy. The imagery and symbolization that Levine brings out in this book is spectacular and keeps ...more
Julia Drescher
Feb 24, 2014 Julia Drescher rated it it was amazing
The story of Henry Brown is told in a historical fiction picture book. We are taken through Henry’s life, in a brief, but complete story where we learn a great deal about him. Henry was a slave. He grew up, married another slave, and had three sons. One day, his wife and sons were sold. Henry had the idea to mail himself to a place where there were no slaves. Two men helped him do this.

The images that show his journey inside a box are beautiful and help us imagine what it might have been like. W
(NS) Lisa
Sep 30, 2009 (NS) Lisa rated it it was amazing
Born a slave, Henry and his siblings worked in the "big house" for his master who, on his deathbed, gave Henry to his son. During the years he worked for the son in his tobacco warehouse. Henry met another slave and they married. They had children and were very happy together. His wife accurately discerned that her master had debts that might cause him to sell his slaves. This was done one day while Henry was working.
At lunchtime, he caught a departing glimpse of his family members, and then he
Laura Rumohr
Sep 30, 2009 Laura Rumohr rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
This picture book is intended for children in grades 2-5. Henry was a slave. Even at a young age, he dreamed of being free. When his master died, Henry thought it was his chance to be released, but the master passed him on to his son. This separated Henry from the rest of his family. Henry continued to work hard as a slave, but dreamed of freedom. Eventually Henry met a woman who he loved, they got married and started a family. One day, however, his family was sold to a new master. Henr
L11_Silvia Celis
Jan 22, 2011 L11_Silvia Celis rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mc-literature
This is the true story of escaped slave Henry Box Brown. The book follows his life from his childhood as a slave on a plantation and as an adult working as a slave in a tobacco factory. After the devastating event of having his wife and three children sold away Henry decides to mail himself to a place where there are no slaves. With the help of a white doctor Henry does exactly that. He is mailed in a crate to Philadelphia and most amazingly is successful.
This was a wonderful story of heart wren
Rebecca Janda

This book is about a boy named Henry Brown who doesn't know how old he is because he's a slave and nobody keeps records of slave's birthdays. Henry's family
is broken apart when he is ordered to work in a warehouse. Henry does eventually marry; however, once again he has to undergo the same hardship as before when his family is sold again at the slave market. He has an epiphany one day while working and realizes what is necessary for him to do, which is to mail himself in a crate to the North. At
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Review 1 4 Feb 16, 2015 06:34PM  
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Ellen Levine's books have won many awards and honors, including the Jane Addams Peace Award. Although she enjoys writing both fiction and nonfiction, most of Ellen's books for young readers have been nonfiction. "Writing nonfiction lets me in behind the scenes of the story. I enjoy learning new things and meeting new people, even if they lived 200 years ago."

Ellen Levine was born in New York City
More about Ellen Levine...

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