I love teaching my children about African American history. When I found this book at my local library, I was thrilled. The illustrations are stunning, and the story is well-written. Plus, it features an African American male, which is rare.
I had the honor of interviewing the book's author recently:
Rachel: I recently discovered your book Freedom Song: The Story of Henry "Box" Brown. Can you summarize the book for my readers?
Sally Walker: The book is the story of Henry Brown, who in 1849 mailed himself to freedom. He made the journey inside a wooden box. His trip was from Richmond, Virginia to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He had to remain silent the whole trip, which lasted more than 24 hours, so no one would discover him and return him to his master. Why he finally felt he had to make the trip I won't say. That's for readers to discover.
R: Why did you decide to tell Henry's story? What do you hope readers take away from the book?
SW: Family is very important to me. My children are the loves of my life, so Henry's story struck a particular chord in me and I felt so badly for him. Music also plays a large role in our lives. So, discovering that Henry liked to sing seemed a natural focus for telling his tale.
I'd like readers to realize that everyone, even in the darkest of times, has an inner strength that can give them the courage and fortitude to carry on and take action. I think, ultimately, Henry's story is one of hope.
R: Do you plan to write more books featuring African American characters? Will you write anymore historical biographies like Henry's?
SW: I have actually written two other biographies, both early readers, about African Americans. Bessie Coleman: Daring to Fly is about the first African American woman to get an airplane pilot's license. The barriers she had to overcome were huge, but she was determined to accomplish her goal. I can tell you one thing: I would never have the guts to fly in the type of planes she did!
The other book is about Jackie Robinson. (Good for this time of year, as it's baseball season!) I wrote that one because Jackie Robinson was one of my dad's heroes. He saw him play a couple of times in the 1940s, shortly after Jackie broke the major league color barrier. My dad always told me Jackie was a man of honor and great courage.
Both Bessie and Jackie can be found in most public library collections. And summertime was made for relaxing with a book. I always like to remind parents--new and old ones--that a library card is free and gives kids a ticket to the world.