Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad

Levine, E. (2007). Henry's freedom box: a true story from the underground railroad. New York: Scholastic Press.

This book is a 2008 Caldecott Honor book as well as on the Notable Books for Children's list.

Exposition: Henry was a little boy living with his mother who was a slave.  The master was kind to his mother, but his mother did not trust that all would be well.  She knew that one day they could be separated.
Conflict: The master became ill, and sold Henry to his brother.  Henry was sent away from his mother.
Rising Action: Henry worked hard for his new master. Here  He met Nancy, another slave, and fell in love.  They married and had children, but always worried that they could be sold.
Climax:  One day, Henry is told that Nancy and his children had been sold to another master and were being sent away.  Henry was devestated and devised a plan.
Falling Action: With the help of a white man who did not agree with slavery, Henry mailed himself in a wooden box to Philadelphia, where he could be free.
Resolution: Henry made it to Philadelphia and became a free man.  He never did see his wife or children again, but became famous for mailing himself to freedom.

Kadir Nelson, who illustrated this book, created illustrations that set the mood for this story.  The faces of the different characters show intense emotion, whether it is the sadness in the face of Henry's mother, or the happiness on the face of Henry and Nancy sitting together with their children. This helps to develop the characters for the reader. The illustrations also work to reinforce the text in the book.  You can see Henry being turned over and around as the illustrator left off one side of the book to allow the reader to see the space in which Henry was packed into. 

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