Henry's Freedom Box

Book review by
Patricia Tauzer, Common Sense Media
Henry's Freedom Box Book Poster Image
Heartrending but hopeful, true story of slave boy's escape.

Parents say

age 7+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 5+
Based on 1 review

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Violence & Scariness

Henry's wife and children are sold to another slave owner and he isn't reunited with them by the end of the book.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this book is based on a true story from the Underground Railroad and is as riveting as the strong, straightforward stare of the young boy on its cover. It may disturb younger readers, as it should, that children are sold away from their families, and parents should be prepared to talk about this and the other harsh realities of Henry's life. An author's note at the end tells of the real Henry Brown and his Freedom Box on which this story was based.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bylola brii February 6, 2012

the best

that it tells ral life slavey from a kids perspective
Adult Written bywww.thinkmediap... March 24, 2011

Great historical story for kids.

We used this book for our study of Black History at home. We really enjoyed it and I found it very powerful for our little ones to understand what happend so m... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old July 15, 2010

great!!!!!! :)


What's the story?

When Henry is young, his master dies and he is separated from his mother. Put to work in a tobacco factory, he marries and has a family of his own. After his wife and family are sold away from him, he comes up with an inventive plan for escaping to freedom.

Is it any good?

Inspirational in its simplicity, HENRY'S FREEDOM BOX tells a moving story of one individual's strength of spirit. It also poignantly presents the heart-wrenching sorrow of families torn apart, and the powerlessness of the enslaved. This book does not preach. In fact, its message is almost understated. But, in the eyes of the boy, the gentleness of his mother, the cramped crated body of the escaping man, its meaning comes across loud and clear: Even in the best of situations, slavery is an evil thing.

Artwork by Kadir Nelson brings warmth and reality to a story that otherwise is told rather straightforwardly. With crosshatched pencil lines under layers of watercolor and oils, he has created amazingly sensitive and powerful portraits based on an anti-slavery lithograph of Henry "Box" Brown that was printed in 1850. His illustrations alone make this a book worth having.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about slavery in America, the underground railroad, and the amazing things people did, both to escape unhappy, horrible circumstances as well as to help others escape. Families can also discuss what Henry's life was like as he grew up on the plantation, and after. What about his plan to escape? Was taking such a chance worth it?

Book details

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate