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

By: Ellen Levine, Kadir Nelson

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Henry Brown was born a slave. When his master died, Henry was sent away from his mother to work in a factory. He met Nancy, a slave girl. The two married and had three children, but one day, Nancy and the children were sold to another slave owner and taken away. Henry just knew that he had to be free, and came up with the idea of mailing himself to the north where there were no slaves. After a harrowing twenty-seven-hour journey packed in a small crate, Henry was delivered safely to the home of an abolitionist and finally realized his dream of being free. 


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 internationally renowned spokesperson for the Underground Railroad and abolition, and even wrote an autobiographical account of his life as a slave and his escape which I hope to read at some point.

Half the beauty of a picture book are the illustrations and the ones here are quite lovely. I was very impressed with how realistic and emotive they are. The pictures almost tell the story all by themselves. Kadir Nelson is a very talented artist. His illustrations combined with Ellen Levine's words to create an amazing book that became a Caldecott Honor book as well as winning numerous other awards and accolades. In my opinion, they are all well-deserved. I recommend Henry's Freedom Box to both children and parents, and I'll definitely be acquiring a copy for my own keeper shelf.


Ellen Levine

Kadir Nelson