cover image Freedom Song: 
The Story of Henry “Box” Brown

Freedom Song: The Story of Henry “Box” Brown

Sally M. Walker, illus. by Sean Qualls. Harper, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-06-058310-1

In a loose, poetic narrative tracing the life of Henry Brown, a Virginia slave who mailed himself to freedom, Walker (Blizzard of Glass) underscores what song meant to Henry. Working in the cotton fields, “he sang his workday song. Its lift, tote, toss-the-sack words sent strength to his arms.” Most dear to him is his “freedom song,” which “soothed Henry’s greatest fear” that he would be separated from his family. Years later, Henry is devastated when their master sells off his wife and young children. Encouraged by his freedom song and the hope that there were “folks in freedom-land” who could help him locate his family, Henry enlists the aid of a white shopkeeper to execute his daring escape. Dominated by subdued blues and browns, Qualls’s (Giant Steps to Change the World) artwork exudes his familiar folk art–like quality, with floating circles of various colors and patterns serving as a visual metaphor for the hope Henry’s song represents. Excerpts from a letter written by the Philadelphia abolitionist who received Henry’s box lend a haunting veracity to this harrowing account. Ages 4–8. Author and illustrator’s agent: Writers House. (Jan.)