Henry’s Freedom Box
A True Story From the Underground Railroad
by Ellen Levine, ill by Kadir Nelson
This book is truly beautiful. I’m so glad I bought it. It was one of those awesome scholastic $3 buys. I’ve noticed that Scholastic prints tend to have the same quality inside, but I think they cut corners with printing the covers. I’ve seen a couple of books I’ve bought for my classroom from Scholastic that I already owned in my personal collection, and instead of having the small spine with the title and author, it is just stapled. Oh, well, you can’t complain for $3.
Back to the book, the illustrations are gorgeous and compliment the intesity of the story beautifully. The story, while sad, is a truthful representation of a dark part of our history.
The book starts with Henry as a young boy. He is a slave living with his mother. One day, as his master is dying, he decides that instead of freeing Henry and his mother, he is going to give Henry to his son, parting him from his mother.
Henry grows up in the sons factory. He finds another slave named Nancy, whom he falls in love with. Their masters give them permission to marry and she bears 3 children.
Nancy’s master is growing poor. She is worried that he will sell her and the children to make some money. Their worst fear is worried and the last time Henry sees his wife and children they are being carried off in a cart. He never sees them again.
Henry can take it no longer, he comes up with a plan. He decides with the help of a white man and another slave that he is going to mail himself to freedom.
They place Henry in the box and send him to a friend of the white man in the north. Henry’s journey is long and uncomfortable, but he finally makes it to his destination. He is finally a free man.
Henry’s story is so sad, but I know there were other accounts that were much, much worse. My daughter said, “poor Henry!”
This book recieved the 2008 Caldecott honor, loosing to The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Honestly, I never thought Hugo should have won…even though it has awesome illustrations. It’s over 300 pages long. When I think of a Caldecott, I think of a book like this one, a short picture book. They actually have similar illustration styles, except that Henry’s Freedom Box is in color.