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John Brown: His Fight for Freedom
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John Brown: His Fight for Freedom

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  211 ratings  ·  66 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 w
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published October 1st 2009 by Harry N. Abrams
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3.89  · 
Rating details
 ·  211 ratings  ·  66 reviews

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Jan 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Children (Middle School and Up) Interested in the History of Abolitionism & the American Civil War
When a picture-book author is at pains to distinguish his subject's actions from those of a modern-day terrorist, you know that said subject must be a figure of some controversy. Such is certainly the case here, in this children's biography of John Brown, the nineteenth-century radical Abolitionist who believed, not just that slavery should be abolished, but that all races of people were equal, and should be treated as such. Spurred on by a deep commitment to his religious and political ideals, ...more
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 tr ...more
Lisa Vegan
Jun 28, 2011 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
Feb 20, 2011 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!
Katie Fitzgerald
This is an interesting, if biased, picture book biography of a controversial historical figure. What really stands out about it are the illustrations, which give readers a good sense of both the time period and of Brown himself.
Sam Bloom
Nov 12, 2009 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 tha ...more
Jan 25, 2010 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 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
Erik D
Nonfiction Children’s Biography
Hendrix, John John Brown: His Fight for Freedom (2009) .
Published on the 150th anniversary of his daring raid on Harper’s Ferry, this colorful biography highlights the battle one man fought to end slavery. Not only do the details of his life capture the reader’s attention, but some of the minutia included on the raid, such as the fact that the Marine lieutenant leading the charge into Harpers Ferry with Colonel Robert E. Lee hastily grabbed a ceremonial sword bef
Adam Shields
Oct 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Short Review: This is a complex portrayal of a difficult character in history. It doesn't hold back. It includes the Kansas massacre where five slave supporters were killed in cold blood. The fact that the first death by Brown's forces at Harper's Ferry was of a free black man.

It also includes positives about Brown like his Christian motivation and his understanding that violence on behalf of freeing the slaves was in his mind justified because of the greater injustice of slavery.

Brown is no l
A figure from American history that most have heard of but we've probably forgotten the specifics, even those of us that just live a short drive away from Harper's Ferry. Hendrix does a great job distilling the core of this story down for young readers. The author's note in the back let's you know how much research and thought he put into recreating this story of a very complicated man.
Apr 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
I found this book very informational about John Brown. I had maybe learned about him when I was younger, but wouldn’t know how significant he was to this day. I found it very interesting that he had worked alongside with Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglas. Overall, I found this book very informational about what John Brown had done to help the fight against slavery.
Amanda Walz
Jan 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: picture-books
This is any interesting take. I don't really know much about John Brown, though I recognize his name from learning about the raid on Harper's Ferry. I feel after reading this book, I really need to know more on the subject before I would read this book to children.
Keri Rohr
Oct 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
John Brown was a great man and this biography does him justice. This book is appropriate for grades 4-5. I think this is a great story to read in a classroom. It shows students that if you are passionate and want to make a difference, you can succeed if you try your best.
Aug 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: history-for-kids

Topeka, Kansas; Lawrence, KS, Abolition, Slavery, Terrorism, Bleeding Kansas
Dec 10, 2017 rated it liked it
I’m so happy that John’s story is being told. What an amazing man. It is encouraging that there were people standing up against slavery.
Michael Fitzgerald
Okay text, ugly illustrations. Useful information.
Jun 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Gorgeously illustrated tale of John Brown and his own version of guerrilla abolitionism. Inspiring and tragic.
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Nov 08, 2009 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 08, 2009 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 de ...more
Catherine Fevery
Dec 04, 2012 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 sl ...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 10, 2010 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 do ...more
Jul 21, 2011 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 conversati ...more
Barbara Lovejoy
Oct 21, 2011 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 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, elementary
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 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.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

John Hendrix is the illustrator of Nurse, Soldier, Spy and author/illustrator of Shooting at theStars, among others. He lives in St. Louis, Missouri.