Saturday, March 3, 2012

Picture Book Analysis: Henry's Freedom Box

This book is written by Ellen Levine, illustrated by Kadir Nelson and published in 2007 (originally published in 1872 & is also a true story).
Henry's Freedom Box in about a boy who grows up in a culture and environment of slavery. The story takes place in the mid-1800's when slavery is in America was very popular. Henry lived with his family at their master's house. One day when the master is sick, he calls for Henry and tells Henry that he's giving Henry to his son. Henry leaves his family to go with his new master and work in his factory, pulling tobacco leaf. Henry meets a woman and they have a family together. Then, their master sells Henry's wife and children. Then, Henry got the idea to "mail himself to freedom". He got in a large wooden crate with the help of his friends, and the sent him off to Pennsylvania. When he finally arrives, his new friends open the box and welcome him to his freedom.

This story's environment takes place in a world where slavey is extremely present. There is no stereo-type in this story. The African American's in this story look different and seem like their oppressed. All African America's in the story are dipicted in a real way and don't appear like they are illustrated by a certain stereotype.

Henry's master is the one with the power at first when he sells Henry's wife and kids. As he becomes upset and comes up with a plan, he then mails himself to Pennsylvania. The master's power over Henry is overwhelming and not a positive power. When he comes up with this plan, I think the power shifts and he feels like he has his own fate in his hands. The power used by Henry is positive because he his changing the fate of his freedom.

The language used is appropriate for this story. The language used is truthful to the situation and slavery. It says in the beginning of the story that Henry is is a slave and slaves weren't allowed to know their birthdays.  Also, in the beginning his mother says "Do you see those leaves blowing in the wind? They are torn from the trees like slave children are torn with their families." Then when Henry says goodbye to his family he looks at the feild and the leaves swirling in the wind. When the story turns and Henry is going toward freedom, it illustrates the white friends that help him go to Pennsylvania and how they don't support slavery.

The pictures in this book illustrates the fact that African American's were owned as slaves. It shows that they were at the bottom of races and weren't valued. The illustrations in this book also show what it may look like to be oppressed (wheb Henry is devistated by the news of his family being sold) and the the extreme happiness of what it's like to be on the way to freedom.

The stereotype of slaves in this book, I feel are represented appropriately. The master gives Henry away to his son (which was what hapened often back then). It shows the slaves tearing tobacco leaves and shows that master with a stick(it says in the story if they messed up the master would beat you) and when Henry gets married to Nancy and his master sells their children (which also used to happen back then).

I would definitely recommend this book to read to children. The illustrations are appropriately presented and the story is true. It represents the culture of slavery acurately. It would be a good story to use to teach children about slavery, their environment and what it would be like to be one of the few to escape slavery and be mailed to freedom.


  1. Excellent job. Very nice, thorough analysis of this book. I would use this book with older children, as they need to be a little older before they can understand the horrors of slavery. Small grammatical errors.

    1. I work with older children (4th and 5th graders) and it was in my classroom, so that's probably why I picked it.

  2. I really liked how this book presented slavery in a way that it could lead to a class discussion about the history of slavery. I also liked that you spoke about the illustrations showing how Henry looked through his struggles and triumphs; the illustrations are important insight into how slavery was for the audience listening to this book. Great job! :)

  3. Very nice analysis! I am super interested in reading this book. I feel this might be a great educational book for children to learn about the slave trade. I agree that the white owner has the power in this story, and I also agree that the power definitely switched to Henry when was free. It is very sad that his family was torn apart twice, but this is a good depiction of what real life was like for the black people. Great job!