Bibliographic Information: Levin, E. (2007). Henry’s freedom box: A true story from the Underground Railroad. New York: Scholastic Press.
Brief Annotation: A fictionalization of the true story of Henry “Box” Brown, an American who mailed himself away from slavery and into freedom.
Genre: Historical fiction
Grade Level: PreK-3
Readers who will like this: Children who like stories about history; children who like stories with brave characters; children with a strong sense of ethics and/or morals.
Rating/Response: 5; It is obvious why this book was a Caldecott Honor Book; the art is beautiful. Henry’s story is inspirational and amazing. The harsh truths of slavery are shown in a way that is both brutally realistic and gentle enough not to overwhelm younger readers. This book would be an excellent introduction to a discussion about slavery. Some children may be upset by the fact that Henry was never reunited with his wife and children, so teachers/readers should be prepared for some difficult questions.
One question you would ask before a read aloud: For this book, I am not sure I would ask an introductory question. I would instead give a brief lesson on our country’s history with slavery, and ask questions after: Do you think Henry was scared? Do you think Henry’s friends got in trouble for helping him to escape? Was it the right thing to do anyway?
Reading Strategy: Strategy Cards (Yopp & Yopp, p. 60-61)
Students are divided into small groups by handing out colored cards. Each color represents a comprehension strategy- making connections, summarizing, visual imaging, etc. The students are read a selected text, and then given an opportunity to discuss in their small groups the ways in which they were able to utilize their reading strategy. Each group then chooses a representative to speak about the strategy to the entire class. The groups stay together for several sessions to give them the opportunity to expand their understanding and use of the comprehension strategy. I think this would be a good choice for Henry’s Freedom Box, as it would give student the opportunity to process some of the more complicated events in the story.