Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “John Brown: His Fight for Freedom” as Want to Read:
John Brown: His Fight for Freedom
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

John Brown: His Fight for Freedom

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  160 Ratings  ·  54 Reviews
Published on the 150th anniversary of John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry, this biography explores the life of one of American history’s most controversial figures. A great deal of academic study has been published recently about John Brown. This is the first book for young readers to include these new attitudes and research.

In the late 1850s, at a time when many men and wo
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published October 1st 2009 by Harry N. Abrams
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about John Brown, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about John Brown

The Lorax by Dr. SeussThe Arrival by Shaun TanMiss Rumphius by Barbara CooneyMake Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskeyInstructions by Neil Gaiman
Picture books for adults
95th out of 127 books — 90 voters
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne FrankDiary of a Freedom Writer by Darrius GarrettChew on This by Eric SchlosserI Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya AngelouPure Grit by Mary Cronk Farrell
YA Nonfiction Books
88th out of 164 books — 68 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
Ok, I'm going to say right up front that I have a problem with John Brown. I was always taught in school that he was a hero, but when I got older and read more about what he did, I changed my mind. I think he was a fanatic who felt that the means justified the end. He murdered people in Kansas! And half the time left the women in his family to fend for themselves while he was off on one of his crusades. That kind of person doesn't deserve the title of hero in my book. So I read this book with ...more
Lisa Vegan
Jul 21, 2011 Lisa Vegan rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: for discussion: of slavery, John Brown & others who fought for abolition; all activists
Recommended to Lisa by: Abigail A.
Wow! It’s hard to know how to rate or review this book. It’s a very “heavy” book for kids, and definitely for older children, I’d say 9-13.

In the author’s note, and implied in the book proper, the author makes a point of expressing how John Brown’s actions were for the greater good, for his principles. The author didn’t quite convince me, though his arguments are admittedly compelling.

The story tells about John Brown’s fight for equal rights for black people and his fight to end slavery in the
Edward Sullivan
Jun 16, 2011 Edward Sullivan rated it it was amazing
I am awed by Hendrix's sheer audacity in taking on such a complex topic for a picture book biography and even more impressed with what a stunning success it is!
Sam Bloom
Nov 12, 2009 Sam Bloom rated it really liked it
I didn't really realize what a polarizing figure John Brown was until I read this book. I had heard of his raid on Harper's Ferry, but (like a lot of other "stuff" in history) I didn't know much about it. The back story really floored me - here was a white man in America in the 1840s and 1850s who wanted blacks to not just be free, but *equal* to whites! Unbelievable! I really enjoyed the illustrations... for the most part. Hendrix's style is very folksy, contributing to the tall-tale larger ...more
Jan 25, 2010 Alida rated it it was amazing
The more I read about John Brown, the more I admire him. History has not been kind to him which is a shame. If there had been more men like him during the creation of the US, perhaps the history of slavery would have been quite different. The author, Mr. Hendrix, has done justice to the source material and his illustrations are just marvelous. A perfect book to introduce a kid to such a pivotal figure.
Shelley larson
Oct 29, 2009 Shelley larson rated it it was ok
I have mixed feelings about this book. I found the story to be quite boring, but I absolutely loved the illustrations. John Brown is the true story of an abolitionist who was tried as a traitor by the United States. The story recounts his fight against slavery, his death by hanging (the picture was a bit disturbing), and his legacy.
Genre: historical nonfiction picture book
Copyright: 2009
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Nov 08, 2009 Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance rated it liked it
Shelves: children
John Brown led an attack on Harper’s Ferry in an attempt to obtain weaponry for his army, an army he hoped to use to defeat slavery. The attack did not go off as planned and Brown was hung for his efforts.
I’ve always seen Brown as a terrorist, but he is not presented this way in the book; he comes across as a man who deplored slavery, loved God, and desperately wanted to stop slavery in America.
The pictures are fun and bright and add a lot to the book. The text is a bit long winded for younger
Nov 14, 2009 Mary rated it it was amazing
Kirkus Reviews
John Brown, with a makeshift flag in one hand and a tiny African-American tot cradled in the other, stands heroically on the jacket of this handsome picture-book biography. His face may be wizened and worn, but his eyes are fixed solely on the future, where he believed one day blacks would become not only free but equal. Often considered a madman or, at best, a tyrannical abolitionist, Brown had another side-one that was so overwhelmed by injustice that he simply had to act. Blood
John Brown may have been a heroic champion for freedom, or he may have been a homicidal lunatic. Hendrix takes the former stance, portraying Brown as a virtuous leader who had to make tough decisions. He introduces Brown as a polite, genteel fellow who goes out of his way to show respect to his black neighbors. In fact, Brown--a white man--is even more passionate about racial equality than many former slaves at the time, including the legendary Frederick Douglass. Inspired by scripture, Brown ...more
Catherine Fevery
Dec 04, 2012 Catherine Fevery rated it really liked it
I would highly suggest introducing your kids to this book. I think it is very important to introduce children to racism because of the fact that it occurs in our every day lives and they should be knowledgable about it. This book is very well written and is the story of slave abolitionist John Brown. John Hendrix portrayed John Brown as incredibly heroic which I have my doubts on for the fact that this was back in the 1800’s, so no one actually knew how John Brown really went about abolishing ...more
Janet Frost
I do love the style of this illustrator. This particular book he is the author and illustrator and I like it better than the ones that he collaborated with another author.
John Brown is a very interesting figure in American History. Unfortunately, he was destined to serve as a martyr. He is often portrayed as a crazy man of violence. In truth, his crusade does dissolve into mayhem. Was this the only choice? Probably, considering the entire country eventually feel victim to a bloody Civil War in p
Aug 12, 2010 James rated it liked it
Let me just say that I think it's awesome that there's a children's book about the Godfather of political terrorism. John Brown is a hugely important American, and one about whom it is impossible to make the facile generalizations characteristic of children's biography. To write a book for children about such a thorny figure takes huevos. That said, the book is sort of meh. It adopts the children's book convention of calling the subject by first name, which makes for a sort of intimacy that I ...more
Oct 16, 2011 Shelli rated it really liked it
Great book for intermediate grade teachers or parents to read with their students to talk about this time in our nations history when slavery was a fact of everyday life. John Brown being a man who detested slavery and not only wanted to see it end but wished for complete equality between the races. At that time this was practically an unheard way of thinking let alone speaking. He went to extreme measures to get his belief across. I can see educators and parents alike having in-depth ...more
Barbara Lovejoy
Dec 03, 2014 Barbara Lovejoy rated it really liked it
I had read this book over 3 years ago, but had forgotten that I had read it. I am so glad that I read it again as I learned (or relearned) many new things. Even though this is a children's book, it has a great message for adults to ponder.

October 20, 2011: Because I had just read the book Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery this children's books caught my eye when I was at the library yesterday. I learned some new facts. I often learn many new things from books written for childre
Nov 22, 2011 Katherine rated it really liked it
Shelves: elementary, history
The classic historical figure brought to vivid life. This book was published on the 150th anniversary of the Harpers Ferry raid and includes some new research on this controversial man. Hendrix paints him as a common, ordinary man who had views and opinions which he could not ignore. In a tumultuous time period, John Brown was a man who stood up for what he believed in... and paid the ultimate price. Was he a saint or a madman? Maybe this book will help you and your middle-aged students decide.
May 18, 2010 Janet rated it really liked it
The graphics in this book add so much to the story that I really can't separate them. Great job! The words are powerful and helpful to help the hopeful history buff get a taste of some of the painful parts of America's history. This is not for the faint of heart and it is also not a morbid book by any means. It does try to relate with as much accuracy as a 9 to 12 year old can muster a true account of a very explosive event. The fonts also add poignancy to the tale.
Amy Edwards
The illustrations in this book are a lot of fun, even though the subject is fairly heavy. I particularly liked the illuminated map of Kansas and Missouri. This picture book gives a pretty good overview of the "Bloody Kansas" incident, as well as the Harpers Ferry raid. The pictures and illustrated map give children a good understanding of the role that geography and the train lines played in the raid's failure.
Interesting book -- John Brown is a complicated figure, and hard to explain in a way that makes sense for kids. But this book has a pretty good layout of his life, and the author's note adds a lot to the story, to the discussion about believing the right thing but maybe not having the right tactics, and about how his faith shaped his radicalism. I could see using this with say, fifth graders -- there's a lot here to talk about, and the illustrations are fantastic.
Dec 13, 2015 Allie rated it it was amazing
I would read this book aloud on 1 condition. That I would have response activities that would engage and help students apply themselves to the story. John Brown is a hero of the U.R. I would think this book would apply to boys, as the pictures are more masculine and hard. The back of the book includes a history section on John Brown. I think this book would be interesting as it makes his story come to life.
Nov 02, 2012 Lucius rated it liked it
Shelves: children-s-books
After reading Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States, I was facinated by John Brown. It's nice to see him introduced to children as someone who had an impact on American history. There is certainly some biased language in this book and the level of the vocabulary is about 5th grade. This is not a picture book for younger children. The content is too advanced for kids below 5th grade.
I am now a huge fan of John Hendrix and his artwork. I am captivated by it, and find myself studying it: the details, the symbolism, the typography. Have read this and Nurse Soldier Spy: The Story of Sarah Edmonds A Civil War Hero. Can't wait to read more of his work.

Although picture books, both of these titles would be great in upper elementary, middle school and high school classrooms.

I support independent bookstores. You can use this link to find one near you:
Paige Y.
For the most part, I thought this was an excellent short account of John Brown's adult life. I loved the illustrations and the way the text flowed with them. The only thing I didn't like was that I felt at times the author couldn't decide who his audience was. There was some complex vocabulary which would make it more appropriate for middle school, but yet at places I felt things were explained in a manner that would be more appropriate for elementary school.
Jesika La Bryer
Copyright 2009
This book is very informational. T he information is deep and accurate. The pictures are almost comic like, appearing "larger than life". It gives mention to other very important people in the time period of John Brown. There are tons of sources as well.
I was a little concerned about one of the illustrations. It depicts a dead person, it doesn't show their face, but this could be disturbing to some children.
Jul 20, 2010 Ofilia rated it it was ok
While this picture book bio provides lots of valuable information on a figure not usually explored in kid lit, he is rather controversial and I'm not certain the text is entirely without bias. Brown's convictions are strong and admirable, however his actions in murdering those who did not agree with him is deplorable. The cartoonish illustrations only add the the hectic feeling of the text and at times Brown looks like a demonic Abe Lincoln.
Kelsey Klaus
Dec 11, 2015 Kelsey Klaus rated it it was amazing
Shelves: eng-261, biography
John Brown may not be the name that come to mind when we think about people who helped to end slavery but he played a huge roll. A great book to read while learning about this dark time in our country. Kids will love this book for the full page pictures and the great story it tells. Read aloud and let the kids experience the pictures.
I have to admit something. I did not know who John Brown was. To be honest, I thought it was a book of tall tales John Henry as the back said "I will raise a storm" and I just grabbed it and brought it home. BOY, was it not what I expected, but I am so glad I read it! I once again was able to bulk up on my history.
Anne Broyles
Aug 12, 2016 Anne Broyles rated it really liked it
John Brown was a complicated man and Hendrix captures both his desire to free slaves and the problems he encountered in trying to do so his way. Subject-wise and the way in which Hendrix portrays Brown, this book is more of a middle school text than for elementary kids. The Author's Note explains more about the prickly and controversial abolitionist.
Christine Turner
In the late 1850s, at a time when many men and women spoke out against slavery, few had the same impact as John Brown, the infamous white abolitionist who backed his beliefs with unstoppable action.


Note: Picture book format but written for mature audience.
Excellent Book
Dec 15, 2013 Margie rated it it was amazing
I am a huge fan of work by John Hendrix. Here is my review of this outstanding book and others he has illustrated.
Aug 12, 2016 Nicole rated it really liked it
How I wish I had found this book before teaching my students about John Brown. This book would be a great addition to my unit on the events leading to the Civil War. The book is lengthy but the story and illustrations would keep my students interested.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Lincoln and Douglass: An American Friendship
  • Sojourner Truth's Step-Stomp Stride
  • Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U. S. Marshal
  • The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According To Susy)
  • The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon
  • Lincoln Tells a Joke: How Laughter Saved the President (and the Country)
  • A Wizard from the Start: The Incredible Boyhood and Amazing Inventions of Thomas Edison
  • Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek: A Tall, Thin Tale (Introducing His Forgotten Frontier Friend)
  • The House That Jane Built: A Story About Jane Addams
  • The Daring Nellie Bly: America's Star Reporter
  • Henry Aaron's Dream
  • Marching for Freedom: Walk Together Children and Don't You Grow Weary
  • Stand Tall, Abe Lincoln
  • The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Saved Jews During the Holocaust
  • Gingerbread for Liberty!: How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution
  • Only Passing Through
  • The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer's Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors
  • Before John Was a Jazz Giant: A Song of John Coltrane

Share This Book