Kid Lit Review of “Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story From the Underground Railroad” by Ellen Levine

This book caught my eye because of the fabulous illustrations by Kadir Nelson. It tells the story of Henry Brown, who, in 1849, at age 34, escaped from slavery by having himself mailed to Philadelphia in a box 3 feet long by 2 feet 8 inches deep by 2 feet wide, labeled as “dry goods.” (Henry enlisted the help of his choir-member friend, a free black who knew a white sympathizer. The sympathizer in turn contacted a white abolitionist of the Philadelphia Anti-Slavery Society for help on the other end.) 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.


Both the author and the illustrator have won many awards. This particular book won the Caldecott Honor in 2008. (The Randolph Caldecott Medal annually recognizes the preceding year’s “most distinguished American picture book for children.”)

Evaluation: Excellent in every respect.

Rating: 5/5

Published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic, 2007

Note: Scholastic Press indicates the interest level for this book is Grade 3 – Grade 5. I would change that to Grade 3 and up (ad infinitum).



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16 Responses to Kid Lit Review of “Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story From the Underground Railroad” by Ellen Levine

  1. Oh wow, what a great book! I definitely need to check this one out.

  2. BermudaOnion says:

    I read Heart and Soul, by Nelson, and loved it. I want to read all of his books now.

  3. zibilee says:

    What an interesting story! I love the fact that he mailed himself into freedom, and would love to read this one. Sandy has a huge crush on Nelson, and I would have to agree he is a very impressive author and illustrator. Great review today!

  4. Julie P. says:

    This looks amazing! Checking it out!! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Vasilly says:

    I love this book so much! I’m glad you featured it.

  6. I’ve seen this book before and I will now make sure to get it at the library. Not only is it an interesting story that will engender a good discussion with my kids but the illustrations are awesome, and my son loves books with this kind of images.

  7. Stephanie says:

    I read this with my son, years ago, when I was introducing the U.S.’s history of slavery. It is a lovely book. Thanks for reminding me about it!

  8. Edgar says:

    I enjoyed Jon Muth’s illustrated books-Zen Shorts, Zen Ghosts and The Three Questions. My old favorite is the Little Prince.

  9. TheBookGirl says:

    I can see why the illustrator has won many awards — the two you posted are wonderful.

  10. Alyce says:

    That is such a great story, and those illustrations are eye-catching!

  11. stacybuckeye says:

    I’ve never heard of this story! Awesome. On to Gage’s list it goes.

  12. Aarti says:

    He MAILED himself? What? Really? How? In a crate? How big was it? Was he comfortable? How did he get into the box? Did someone help him? I MUST KNOW!

    What a beautifully striking cover.

  13. JoAnn says:

    Wow, I can see why this caught your eye. It sounds fabulous!

  14. This sounds fantastic! I’ve heard about him, but I don’t know much about his story. The fact that he survived being mailed is just amazing.

  15. Jen V. says:

    Henry’s Freedom Box is one of my favorites. It’s excellently written and illustrated. I was amazed by the fact that he actually was able to do what he did with the box. It was so sad though – and the illustrations really emphasize the sadness. Such a great book!

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