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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

4.49  ·  Rating details ·  14,585 ratings  ·  1,860 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 2007 by Scholastic Press
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Justine Discutido Well, I wouldn't call this book bad, but it did set the main virtue of this story which was justice, which was kinda the whole point of the story. And…moreWell, I wouldn't call this book bad, but it did set the main virtue of this story which was justice, which was kinda the whole point of the story. And this book shows a pretty good example of justice to kids. Also this is a good book to show about the Underground Railroad or something about Black History Month.(less)

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Average rating 4.49  · 
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 ·  14,585 ratings  ·  1,860 reviews

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It’s amazing to me how much you can learn from children’s books. It might not have a ton of depth and it spares some of the reality of how brutal or hard things were, but I learn so much from reading these to the kids.

This is about Henry who lived as a slave to a good man, but the owner died and left him to his son. Henry grows up and eventually gets married. The woman is owned by another man and they are able to live together, which I didn’t know they let you do. Henry had several kids. One da
Feb 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone, this is a story that needs to be told
Ellen Levine's Henry's Freedom Box is a book that tugs at all of one's emotions. It makes one angry, sad, despairing, happy. And 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.

That Henry Brown has basically no rights, t
Mariah Roze
Mar 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was a phenomenal book that taught about Henry Brown. During slavery he was married and had children, but when their master struggled with money they were sold to a different owner. He escaped slavery by being shipped in a box to Philadelphia.

This book is easy for children to follow a long and has great photos that represent everything that is being said.
Feb 22, 2011 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
Jan 24, 2011 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
Nov 02, 2011 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 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
Crystal Marcos
Feb 15, 2011 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
Mar 22, 2009 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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a true story from the Underground Railroad about an African American slave gaining his freedom and the hardships he faces achieving this victory. Henry is a young boy who does not have a birthday. This is no surprise because there were no records of slave’s birthdays. He is torn from his family at a young age and put to work in a warehouse. He soon meets a girl named Nancy and marries her. They have three children and are happy. Henry’s happiness is torn away when his family gets sold in ...more
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
Sep 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Anna by: Manybooks
Henry Brown wasn't sure how old he was. Henry was a slave. And slaves weren't allowed to know their birthdays.

Bridget F
Jun 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Henry doesn’t know his age-slaves aren’t allowed to know their birthdays. Henry’s master sells him to his son, and Henry works many years in a factory. He married a woman named Nancy and they had children. Then, one heart-wrenching day, Henry’s wife and children are sold and Henry knows me may never see them again. He decides to mail himself to a place where there are no slaves, in Philadelphia. Some friends help Henry stow away in a shipping crate. On his journey in his box, he was lifted, thro ...more
Luisa Knight
A well told tale to assist younger children in learning of slavery and how one slave managed to escape to freedom.

Ages: 4 - 8

**Like my reviews? I also have hundreds of detailed reports that I offer too. These reports give a complete break-down of everything in the book, so you'll know just how clean it is or isn't. I also have Clean Guides (downloadable PDFs) which enable you to clean up your book before reading it!

Visit my website!
Vannessa Anderson
Feb 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: youth-children
Beautifully hand drawn portraits about Henry Brown, a young slave who didn’t know how old he was because slaves weren’t allowed to know their birthdays. Henry grew up, married and had children then one day while working in the tobacco field, another slave told Henry that his wife and children had been sold.

Henry’s Brown Box is about the chances Henry took to gain his freedom after his family was sold.
Donna Rogers
Feb 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A picture book based on a true story. I read this story aloud to my middle school classes during Black History Month. When they discover that it is based on a true story, they're fascinated, horrified, and in awe of this man's courage and yearning to be free. A must read!
Kathy Roderer
Sep 20, 2009 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?
Sep 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Kadir Nelson’s art is amazing, as always. He uses color very effectively to illustrate Henry’s moods and feelings throughout the story. Henry, a slave living before the Civil War, decides to escape to freedom. His beloved wife and children have been sold and he doesn’t expect to ever be reunited with them. He finds a white friend who doesn’t believe in slavery who agrees to literally mail him to a free state. Ellen Levine very clearly describes the effect that slavery had on families and address ...more
First, let me just say how incredible Kadir Nelson's illustrations are. The sheer beauty and brilliance of his work never ceases to amaze me. The pictures in Henry's Freedom Box are no exception--simply gorgeous. The text is fairly simple, making this a great introductory book for children about the topic of slavery. It's a heartbreaking story, don't get me wrong, and by the end if you don't weep and cheer for Henry, well, I'm not sure you're actually a human being. There's a little author note ...more
Oct 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book caught my eye because of the fabulous illustrations by Kadir Nelson. It tells the story of Henry Brown, who, in 1849, escaped from slavery by having himself mailed to Philadelphia. Henry traveled 350 miles from Richmond, Virginia, in a nail-biting trip that took twenty-seven hours. Henry “Box” Brown became one of the most famous escaped slaves and his story remains incredibly inspirational.
Jul 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
An interesting story from the Underground Railroad that I hadn't heard before. I really liked how the sensitive issues of slavery were presented without sugar coating them for kids but also without making them super graphic, either. A great intro to slavery and the Abolitionist movement for young elementary kids.
Calecott Honor 2008

True story based on one of the most famous runaway slaves. This story is about Henry "Box" Brown who literally mailed himself to freedom. I liked how the story was historically accurate, sad, but uplifting, too. This account was documented in The Underground Railroad by William Still, published in 1872.
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!
Stephanie  Weatherly
Jan 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely love using this book in my classes as we embark on our historical fiction unit. The illustrations help to tell the story of a brave young man on his journey to start his new life.
Dec 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone Looking for Picture-Books About Slavery and/or the Underground Railroad
Ellen Levine, the author of numerous historical and biographical works for young people, including a number of entries in the If You... series - If Your Name Was Changed At Ellis Island , If You Lived With The Iroquois , If You Traveled on the Underground Railroad - turns her attention to the story of escaped slave Henry Box Brown in this award-winning picture-book. Born a slave in antebellum Virginia, Henry Brown was parted from his mother and family at a young age, and sent to work a ...more
Gianni Outram
Oct 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad is about a boy named Henry who was a slave. When his master gets sick, Henry feels a glimmer of hope that he might be set free. Instead he learns that he will be sold to his master’s son. As Henry says goodbye to his family, he notices the free birds soaring high above him. Henry works in his new master’s factory and he is very lonely until he meets Nancy. He falls in love with Nancy and they get married and have kids together. Sadl ...more
Debbie Gillespie
Sep 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Citation: Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad, written by Ellen Levine and illustrated by Kadir Nelson (Scholastic, 2007)

1. Genre: Historical Fiction
2. Summary: Henry’s Freedom Box, is a touching, true story about the plight of Henry “Box” Brown. Eloquently written, the book brings the reader on a series of heart-wrenching struggles Henry endured throughout his life as a slave in Virginia during the 1800’s and his eventual idea to mail himself to “freedom” as part of
Evelyn Swanson
Oct 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Henry’s Freedom Box written by Ellen Levine and illustrated by Kadir Nelson is a historical fiction book. Levine tells the true story of Henry Brown, a slave who came up with the “ingenious idea” to escape slavery by traveling from Virginia to Pennsylvania in a wooden box. The book shows beautiful depictions of the Civil War era and presents the injustices slaves endure during this period. This book won the Caldecott Honor in 2008, and I recommend it for students in K-5 grades. However, I would ...more
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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

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