Module 6–Historical Fiction

Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine



This book is based upon the true story of Henry “Box” Brown and his escape through the Underground Railroad.  Henry was a small boy who lived on a farm with his mother.  They were slaves and while his master was nice to him, Henry dreamed of freedom.  That dream grew even stronger after he was moved to the master’s sons’ house without his mother.  He eventually married and had children of his own, but they too were sold one afternoon while he was at work.  Henry couldn’t live like this and devised a plan to get his freedom.  He mailed himself in a box to a place where slavery was illegal and he could be free.

Levine, E.  (2007).  Henry’s Freedom Box.  New York:  Scholastic Press.

My impressions

This has become one of my favorite historical fiction books.  When I was in school the subject of slavery was something that interested me very much.  I didn’t (and I still don’t) understand how anyone could condone the actions of these slave owners.  I get very emotional and angry when I hear about this subject.  This book brought about those emotions again.  The text was simple and told a story that tugged at my heartstrings.  The pictures were fantastic, I loved the colors and hues; they really set the tone.  I would love to get one of these pictures framed.  This was a great book based upon a horrible part of our history.


Nelson’s powerful portraits add a majestic element to Levine’s history-based tale of Henry “Box” Brown, a slave who escaped by having himself mailed to freedom in a crate. Depicted as a solemn boy with an arresting gaze on the cover, Henry displays riveting presence in every successive scene, as he grows from child to adult, marries and is impelled to make his escape after seeing his beloved wife and children sold to slaveowners. Related in measured, sonorous prose that makes a perfect match for the art, this is a story of pride and ingenuity that will leave readers profoundly moved, especially those who may have been tantalized by the entry on Brown in Virginia Hamilton’s Many Thousand Gone: African Americans from Slavery to Freedom (1993). (afterword, reading list) (Picture book. 8-10)

(2006, December 1).  Review of Henry’s Freedom Box.  Retrieved from


During Black History Month this book definitely needs to make an appearance.  Doing outreach with the elementary schools would be one way to tie in their lessons with the library and this book.  Setting up reading sessions with the school librarian and the teachers would allow me to visit more then one class at a time.  This could also be done as a group assembly where as I read the book it is being acted out by the high school drama department.  It would be a way for the high school, elementary schools and the library to collaborate together.

Tomas and the Library Lady by Pat Mora



Tomas and his family spend winters in Texas working the fields and summers in Iowa doing the same.  They are migrant workers and live in houses that many families share.  Tomas’s grandfather likes to tell the children stories and encourages Tomas to go to the library in Iowa to learn more stories.  There Tomas meets  a librarian who helps find him books of interest and encourages him to continue reading.  He reads to her and teaches her phrases in Spanish all summer long.  When it is time to go back to Texas, he teaches her one more word….adios.

Mora, P.  (1997).  Tomas and the Library Lady.  New York:  Random House.


_ A charming, true story about the encounter between the boy who would become chancellor at the University of California at Riverside and a librarian in Iowa. Tom†s Rivera, child of migrant laborers, picks crops in Iowa in the summer and Texas in the winter, traveling from place to place in a worn old car. When he is not helping in the fields, Tom†s likes to hear Papa Grande’s stories, which he knows by heart. Papa Grande sends him to the library downtown for new stories, but Tom†s finds the building intimidating. The librarian welcomes him, inviting him in for a cool drink of water and a book. Tom†s reads until the library closes, and leaves with books checked out on the librarian’s own card. For the rest of the summer, he shares books and stories with his family, and teaches the librarian some Spanish. At the end of the season, there are big hugs and a gift exchange: sweet bread from Tom†s’s mother and a shiny new book from the librarianto keep. Col¢n’s dreamy illustrations capture the brief friendship and its life-altering effects in soft earth tones, using round sculptured shapes that often depict the boy right in the middle of whatever story realm he’s entered. (Picture book. 7-10)

(1997, August 1).  Review of Tomas and the Library Lady.  Retrieved from


Starting a bilingual story time has been a dream of mine for a few years.  I have experimented with the idea a few times with a good response.  This would be one of those books that I would like to use.  There are a few Spanish words in there, but the story is the main thing I want to get across.  This is a true story about a Latin-American boy who grew up to be an educator and it all started because of one librarian.


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