Reading/Interest Level: Primary
Author: Sally M. Walker
Illustrator: Sean Qualls
Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers
Henry “Box” Brown has grown up with his family in Virginia, where they are all slaves on a large plantation and sing while they work. At night he thinks of his “Freedom Song,” a song in his head about a free land where he can be with his family in peace. When he grows older, he is sent to work in a tobacco factory where he meets his wife, Nancy. They marry, have children, and sing together the song of family. But one day, Nancy’s master sells Nancy and the children to another master far away. Henry knows that if he can get to “freedom land” he will have a chance of seeing his family again. He packs himself into a small box for his journey. Finally, he makes it to freedom land, where he is finally able to sing his freedom song for all to hear.
Freedom Song is well written and embraces its musical theme. This theme is very appropriate for the context of the book. It provides opportunities for readers to discuss the music that came from southern slave communities, and how it has and still continues to influence music we listen to today. The book also introduces the concept of an emotional connection with music. Through Henry’s musical experiences, children will be able to understand the importance of music and how it can uplift, comfort, and inspire the listener. The story takes place during a time of slavery and suffering in the southern United States, a time that is important for young students to learn about. Henry’s story is very eye opening and details the great suffering he endured in order to gain his freedom, and the loss of his family is upsetting and unfortunately common for those times. The illustrations used in the book are very textured and full of emotion. They are just as musical as the text and allow the reader to feel an even deeper connection with Henry “Box” Brown.