Author: Ellen Levine
Illustrator: Kadir Nelson
Publisher and Year: Scholastic Press 2007
Number of pages: 36
Genre: Non-Fiction Picture Book
Henry’s Freedom Box is the recipient of a Caldecott Honors. This book tells the story of Henry “BOX” Brown. Henry is a slave and as a child his master sends him to work for his master’s son. While working in a factory for his new boss, Henry meets Nancy, another slave who is owned by a different master. Their masters allow them to get married and they end up having three children. Unfortunately, Nancy’s master runs out of money and sells her and her children. They are carted off before Henry gets to say a proper goodbye and he is heartbroken. Henry goes on to meet Dr. Smith who helps Henry escape by shipping him to Philadelphia in a box. Henry gets shipped, and is free in Philadelphia.
The story of Henry’s Freedom Box has the potential to be very influential to a classroom. It is sometimes difficult to find a historical book about slavery that does not shy away from the horrors of the time, but this book stays historically accurate. The illustrations in this book add to the historical accuracy of this book because they are mostly realistic. The illustrations were created by starting with a pencil sketch and applying watercolors and oil paints. This helps creates realistic looking pictures that also have a sketchy texture to them. Having the illustrations look realistic and sketchy at the same time adds depth and interest to the story. Instead of having it look like recreations of photographs, the sketchiness allows for more texture to the drawings where it may not typically be.
The text placement is seemingly random, but it is placed to fit with the pictures. The illustrations take up the entire page and add a lot of depth to the story. Because the illustrations take up so much space, the text is sometimes placed off to the side or is placed over a portion of the illustration that is not the main focus. The disruption of the placement of the text from page to page draws the attention of the reader to the illustration as they scan the page to see where the texted is placed. Overall, this book is beautifully crafted and would be an excellent tool to use in a classroom when discussing slavery.