Review of Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom

Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom
by Carole Boston Weatherford; illus. by Michele Wood
Primary, Intermediate    Candlewick    56 pp.    g
4/20    978-0-7636-9156-1    $17.99

“I entered the world a slave…I was a slave because my countrymen had made it lawful, in utter contempt of the declared will of heaven.” Our introduction to Henry Brown in the opening lines of the book are in his own words (from Narrative of the Life of Henry Box Brown, Written by Himself). The history of Henry Brown — who self-emancipated from enslavement after his wife and children were sold away by shipping himself North in a wooden crate, hoping to “pass as dry goods” — has been told before (see Henry’s Freedom Box, rev. 3/07). Here, Weatherford’s moving, poetic verse gives the story a very personal tone as the reader becomes immersed in Brown’s harrowing tale of loss and sorrow and his determination to be free. Written in sixains, with each line representing a side of a box, the text painstakingly traces Brown’s journey: “I take a bladder of water and a drill to bore air holes / And cram my two-hundred-pound body into the box.” The mixed-media art uses collage elements effectively. Deep reds and bright blues and greens figure prominently, giving the art a somewhat vintage feel while still being vivid and vibrant. The book ends powerfully with a sixain titled “AXIOM”: “Freedom / Is / Fragile. / Handle / With / Care.” Appended with a timeline, a bibliography, and notes from the illustrator and the author.

From the March/April 2020 Horn Book Magazine.

Monique Harris

Monique Harris is a public educator, reading specialist and independent educational consultant. She holds a Master of Science degree in Education from Simmons University, and is enrolled in a PhD program at Florida State University.

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