|Available at IndieBound|
Henry’s Freedom Box
Illustrated by Kadir Nelson
We meet Henry as a little boy. We’re told that Henry doesn’t know how old he is, because slaves aren’t allowed to know their birthdays. In just a few short pages, Henry grows older, gets married, starts a family. Levine tells us how his status as a slave affected him at each stage of his life. Henry’s immense psychological burden comes through loud and clear. When Henry makes his daring escape, I was holding my breath, anxious and spellbound, even though I knew the outcome. I can’t imagine how terrifying his journey must have been.
I don’t read much children’s literature, so I don’t really know how to compare this to others in the genre. The story just whizzed by. I barely had time to blink before decades had passed and Henry was emerging from his box into a Philadelphia parlor. It seems like a good book to read with a child, so you can discuss it. The author’s note at the end adds a few details about how Henry managed his time in the box, which are helpful. I can imagine a child asking lots of questions about Henry’s situation, and it could be a great teaching opportunity. Keep the tissues nearby, though! I was tearing up at the end.