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Full Text Reviews:
Bulletin for the Center... - 04/01/2007 Among the stories of runaway slaves, the tale of Henry “Box” Brown’s successful 1849 flight from Richmond, Virginia, to Philadelphia via packing crate is one of the more famous. Although it can be related in the quasi-folkloric tone of a trickster tale, Levine focuses on the poignant details of his earlier life—his forced separation from his mother and later from his wife and children—that make his ultimate escape a bittersweet triumph. Levine and Nelson’s collaboration is well suited to primary-grade listeners, from the plainspoken text (“‘Your wife and children were just sold at the slave market.’ ‘No!,’ cried Henry. Henry couldn’t move. Henry couldn’t think. Henry couldn’t work”) to the dramatic images (a larger than life double-page bleed of Brown’s mounting anxieties; cross-sections of his contortion in the wooden crate). Nelson’s mixed-media illustrations, with their cross-hatched pencil lines inspired by a nineteenth-century lithograph, often seem to more closely emulate crackled glazing; and although some male figures in their lengthy topcoats appear oddly truncated, the sober, fixed gaze of Brown as a boy and the steely dignity of Brown as a man are riveting indeed. No citations are offered for quotations, which are loosely paraphrased from Brown’s own account, but reference to the Brown narrative and that of equally famous escapee William Still are included following a brief author’s note. EB - Copyright 2007 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.
School Library Journal - 03/01/2007 Gr 2-5-Inspired by an actual 1830s lithograph, this beautifully crafted picture book briefly relates the story of Henry "Box" Brown's daring escape from slavery. Torn from his mother as a child, and then forcibly separated from his wife and children as an adult, a heartsick and desperate Brown conspired with abolitionists and successfully traveled north to Philadelphia in a packing crate. His journey took just over one full day, during which he was often sideways or upside down in a wooden crate large enough to hold him, but small enough not to betray its contents. The story ends with a reimagining of the lithograph that inspired it, in which Henry Brown emerges from his unhappy confinement-in every sense of the word-and smiles upon his arrival in a comfortable Pennsylvania parlor. Particularly considering the broad scope of Levine's otherwise well-written story, some of the ancillary "facts" related in her text are unnecessarily dubious; reports vary, for instance, as to whether the man who sealed Henry into the crate was a doctor or a cobbler. And, while the text places Henry's arrival on March 30, other sources claim March 24 or 25. Nelson's illustrations, always powerful and nuanced, depict the evolution of a self-possessed child into a determined and fearless young man. While some of the specifics are unfortunately questionable, this book solidly conveys the generalities of Henry Brown's story.-Catherine Threadgill, Charleston County Public Library, SC Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information. - Copyright 2007 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Booklist - 02/01/2007 *Starred Review* Although the cover shows a young boy staring intently at the reader, this book is really about Henry Brown as an adult and a staggering decision he made to achieve freedom. Henry, born a slave, hears from his mother that leaves blowing in the wind “are torn from the trees like slave children are torn from their families.” When his master grows ill, Henry hopes that he will be freed; instead, he is given to his master’s son, and his life becomes worse. Eventually, Henry marries and has children; then his family is sold. With nothing left to lose, he asks a white abolitionist to pack him in a crate so he can be mailed to freedom. The journey is fraught with danger as he travels by train and then steamboat, but 27 hours later, he reaches Philadelphia. A brief author’s note confirms the details of the story, but it’s the dramatic artwork that brings the events emphatically to life. According to the flap copy, an antique lithograph of Brown inspired Nelson’s paintings, which use crosshatched pencil lines layered with watercolors and oil paints. The technique adds a certain look of age to the art and also gives the pictures the heft they need to visualize Brown’s life. Transcending technique is the humanity Nelson imbues in his characters, especially Brown and his mother—her dream of freedom deferred, his amazingly achieved. - Copyright 2007 Booklist.