BOX: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom
BOX: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom

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Annotation: Retells in verse form the story of Henry Brown, an enslaved man who escaped from Virginia by having himself enclosed in a wooden box and shipped to freedom in Philadelphia.
Genre: Biographies
Catalog Number: #205702
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Copyright Date: 2020
Edition Date: 2020
Illustrator: Wood, Michele,
Pages: 56
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-7636-9156-9 Perma-Bound: 0-7804-7178-4
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-7636-9156-1 Perma-Bound: 978-0-7804-7178-8
Dewey: 921
Dimensions: 23 x 27 cm.
Language: English
Reviews:
ALA Booklist
"Geometry. How many sides to a box?" This concrete poem, its words curling into the shape of the number six, opens an unusual and powerful book of poetry. Henry "Box" Brown, born enslaved in 1815 or 1816, famously had himself shut into a wooden crate in Virginia and mailed to freedom in Philadelphia. In a series of sixain poems, the author interprets Brown's autobiography, telling his story in urgent, compelling language. The love and comfort Brown finds with his wife, Nancy, and their children changes to despair when his family is sold and sent to another state. With little left to lose, he proceeds with the perilous escape. Mixed-media illustrations combine thickly textured figures and backgrounds, collage, and painted, folded paper to create images with three-dimensional qualities. As the illustrator says in her note, the pictures convey deep suffering, hope, and determination. Cubic shapes appear frequently, echoing and amplifying the six lines of each poem. Intended for older readers than Henry's Freedom Box (2007), the book artfully expresses difficult truths while being mindful of a child audience.
Horn Book
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.
Kirkus Reviews
After losing his family to treacherous slaveholders, Henry “Box” Brown risks his life in an unusual bid for freedom.Weatherford’s account, written in Brown’s voice, takes readers through his life and times in measured lines of poetry, with one to four poems per spread; most have six lines, like the sides of the box. Poems such as “Work,” “Brutality,” “Nat,” “Laws,” and “Crop” document Brown’s early life as a slave. After he marries Nancy, her master goes back on his promise never to sell her. Brown tries to stay with Nancy through several sales, but when she and their children are finally sold away, never to return, Brown asks, “Lord, what more do I have to lose?” He dreams of freedom and prays for freedom until he is inspired to ship himself in a box to a trustworthy contact up North, where he begins the rest of his life. This lengthy retelling details what life was like for both enslaved and free blacks at this time in U.S. history as well as the pain and near suffocation Brown suffered on his way to freedom. The poems are set against a white background facing full-page textured paintings featuring stylized figures and patterns reminiscent of quilts. Brown’s story never gets old, and this illustrated biography is rich in context and detail that make it heavier on history and better for slightly older readers than, for instance, Ellen Levine and Kadir Nelson’s Henry’s Freedom Box (2007).Heartbreaking and legendary. (timeline, bibliography, illustrator’s note, author’s note) (Picture book/biography/poetry. 8-12)
Publishers Weekly
A powerful assortment of colors, textures, and artistic styles illustrate this true story of how Henry -Box- Brown escaped enslavement in 1849 via a harrowing journey inside a sealed crate. -Inside/ One/ Box/ To/ Flee/ Another,- explains one of the more than 50 short poems that comprise this vivid account. Told
School Library Journal Starred Review
Gr 4 Up-Weatherford shares the story of Henry "Box" Brown, who was born into slavery in Richmond in the 1800s. Brown's birth family was divided after the death of their master. Later, Brown's pregnant wife and three children were sold and sent to North Carolina. In 1849, the same year Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery, Brown shipped himself in a wooden box to the American Anti-Slavery Society office in Philadelphia, successfully winning his freedom. Brown, given the nickname "Box" by abolitionists, promoted his escape by publishing an autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Henry Box Brown . He created a performance piece ("Mirror of Slavery") that he exhibited in the United States, England, and Canada, solidifying his place in American history. Brown's story is conveyed in a series of sixains (a poem of six lines), mirroring the six sides of a box. Each poem is deceptively simple, but Weatherford's lush storytelling allows Brown's voice and story to come through clearly. The imagery is often as brutal as the history itself, and Brown is portrayed as a nuanced and complex human being, willing to do what is necessary to survive. Wood's mixed-media illustrations are dynamic and engaging. The details urge a second or third reading of the text. Bibliography and notes from the author and illustrator are included. VERDICT An artful and introspective retelling of the life of a remarkable man and a painful era in U.S. history. Weatherford's text paired with Wood's illustrations combine to offer a memorable work of nonfiction. Casey O'Leary, Meredith Nicholson School 96, IN
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
After losing his family to treacherous slaveholders, Henry “Box” Brown risks his life in an unusual bid for freedom.Weatherford’s account, written in Brown’s voice, takes readers through his life and times in measured lines of poetry, with one to four poems per spread; most have six lines, like the sides of the box. Poems such as “Work,” “Brutality,” “Nat,” “Laws,” and “Crop” document Brown’s early life as a slave. After he marries Nancy, her master goes back on his promise never to sell her. Brown tries to stay with Nancy through several sales, but when she and their children are finally sold away, never to return, Brown asks, “Lord, what more do I have to lose?” He dreams of freedom and prays for freedom until he is inspired to ship himself in a box to a trustworthy contact up North, where he begins the rest of his life. This lengthy retelling details what life was like for both enslaved and free blacks at this time in U.S. history as well as the pain and near suffocation Brown suffered on his way to freedom. The poems are set against a white background facing full-page textured paintings featuring stylized figures and patterns reminiscent of quilts. Brown’s story never gets old, and this illustrated biography is rich in context and detail that make it heavier on history and better for slightly older readers than, for instance, Ellen Levine and Kadir Nelson’s Henry’s Freedom Box (2007).Heartbreaking and legendary. (timeline, bibliography, illustrator’s note, author’s note) (Picture book/biography/poetry. 8-12)
Reviewing Agencies: - Find Other Reviewed Titles
Starred Review for Horn Book (4/1/20)
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews (4/1/20)
Starred Review for Publishers Weekly (4/1/20)
School Library Journal Starred Review (2/1/20)
ALA Booklist (4/1/20)
Horn Book (4/1/20)
Newbery Honor (4/1/20)
Bibliography Index/Note: Includes bibliographical references.
Word Count: 2,897
Reading Level: 5.3
Interest Level: 5-9
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 5.3 / points: 0.5 / quiz: 509048 / grade: Middle Grades

A 2021 Newbery Honor Book

In a moving, lyrical tale about the cost and fragility of freedom, a New York Times best-selling author and an acclaimed artist follow the life of a man who courageously shipped himself out of slavery.


What have I to fear?
My master broke every promise to me.
I lost my beloved wife and our dear children.
All, sold South. Neither my time nor my body is mine.
The breath of life is all I have to lose.
And bondage is suffocating me.

Henry Brown wrote that long before he came to be known as Box, he “entered the world a slave.” He was put to work as a child and passed down from one generation to the next — as property. When he was an adult, his wife and children were sold away from him out of spite. Henry Brown watched as his family left bound in chains, headed to the deeper South. What more could be taken from him? But then hope — and help — came in the form of the Underground Railroad. Escape!

In stanzas of six lines each, each line representing one side of a box, celebrated poet Carole Boston Weatherford powerfully narrates Henry Brown’s story of how he came to send himself in a box from slavery to freedom. Strikingly illustrated in rich hues and patterns by artist Michele Wood, Box is augmented with historical records and an introductory excerpt from Henry’s own writing as well as a time line, notes from the author and illustrator, and a bibliography.


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