Posted in Picture Books

Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine

315882Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad
Ellen Levine
Kadir Nelson
2007 Scholastic Press
ISBN – 9780439777339
Genre – Picture Book
Age – Preschool, Elementary School
4 Stars


Henry was born a slave, he doesn’t know how old he is or when his birthday was. As a young boy his dying master passes him on to his son. When Henry grows older he meets a woman, marries her, and has three kids. He is very lucky to live with his wife despite the fact that they have different masters. Everything is going well until one day his whole family gets sold and is taken away from him. After this he comes up with a plan. He will mail himself to a place where there are no slaves. This box becomes Henry’s freedom box.

I really enjoyed this book. The pictures and text coupled with the author’s note at the end are great at demonstrating that the Underground Railroad was not a railroad. “It was all the secret ways slaves made their way from the South to the North.” This book depicts some of the hardships and tragedies that slaves had to endure in a way that young children can comprehend. On another note, Kadir Nelson is an incredibly talented artist. I love the way he portrayed Henry’s expressions in different situations. I also love the way his soft lines and overall style in this book are so able to create intimacy and feeling. This is a great book for young kids. For slightly older children, I would recommend “We are the Ship” by Kadir Nelson, which talks about Negro League Baseball starting in the 1920’s.


2 thoughts on “Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine

  1. Thanks for this review!! I was just about to order this book the other day. It’s so amazing to see author’s addressing historical topics for younger audiences. I think we get so worried that children won’t be able to handle these tough topics, but I’ve always felt that kids can (just with the appropriate amount of detail for the appropriate age). We strive to teach our kids about what being a human means and one of the best ways to do this is to learn about history! 🙂

  2. Thanks for your comment. I am very interested in picture books that address historical and social issues. It is important to teach kids about these kinds of subjects in a way that is sensitive to their age and comprehension. Henry’s Freedom Box does this very well. Another book to look into would be Pink and Say by Patricia Polacco. It is more geared towards racial issues in civil war soldiers. Not quite as good in my mind, but it goes to show that there are a variety of these types of books.

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