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.
Hilary Verheggen recently graduated with her masters in library science from the University of Washington. Read more reviews on her blog A Curious Bookshelf.
Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad
By Ellen Levine and Kadir Nelson
2007 Scholastic Press
ISBN – 9780439777339
Genre – Picture Book
Age – Preschool, Elementary School