cover image Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom

Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom

Carole Boston Weatherford, illus. by Michele Wood. Candlewick, $17.99 (56p) ISBN 978-0-7636-9156-1

A powerful assortment of colors, textures, and artistic styles illustrate this true story of how Henry “Box” Brown escaped enslavement in 1849 via a harrowing journey inside a sealed crate. “Inside/ One/ Box/ To/ Flee/ Another,” explains one of the more than 50 short poems that comprise this vivid account. Told in Brown’s voice, all but one contain six lines: the number of sides in a cube. Weatherford (The Roots of Rap) bases often-lyrical free verse on Brown’s own narrative, excerpted in the opening spread. Detailed stanzas, each beginning with a single descriptive term, touch on the brutality of slavery (“Overseers”); the torment that awaited resisters (“Nat”); Brown’s deep anguish over losing his first wife and children, sold and forever separated from him (“Courage”); and his subsequent life as a free man (“BOX”). His traumatic, stifling two-day journey (“Baggage”) from Virginia to Philadelphia occurs over several claustrophobic spreads. Elaborate mixed-media collages by Wood (Clap Your Hands) employ a box motif, featuring Escher-like cubes alongside folded paper and painted quilt squares. A timeline, notes, and bibliography conclude this rich retelling of Brown’s courageous escape. Ages 10–up. (Apr.)