When his wife and children are sold away, an enslaved man devises an extraordinary means of escape to the North and succeeds.
Henry Brown worked in a tobacco factory in Richmond, Va. With the help of abolitionist friends, he built a box barely big enough for his large frame and mailed himself to Philadelphia and “freedom-land.” Walker, winner of the Sibert Medal, captures the spirit and resolve of the man through her graceful writing and inclusion of songs of praise. She recounts his childhood, marriage to another slave and the fears, soon realized, that the family would be torn apart. Textured paintings and collage by Qualls express both the depth of Henry’s love and the drama and ordeal of the journey, with dark shadows depicting the closeness of the box. Walker does change one fact. She has Henry cut his finger to get sent home prior to the escape. He actually used acid, as recounted in the award-winning Henry’s Freedom Box, by Ellen Levine and illustrated by Kadir Nelson (2007). Nonetheless, this stands as another excellent, accessible account of the harshness of slavery. An excerpted letter written by the recipient of Henry “Box” Brown is included.
The desire to live free is powerful, and this story celebrates one man’s amazing journey to achieve that end. (author’s note) (Picture book/biography. 5-10)