John Brown: His Fight for Freedom by John Hendrix, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
John Brown: His Fight for Freedom

John Brown: His Fight for Freedom

by John Hendrix

Published on the 150th anniversary of John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry, this biography explores the life of one of American history’s most controversial figures. A great deal of academic study has been published recently about John Brown. This is the first book for young readers to include these new attitudes and research.
In the late


Published on the 150th anniversary of John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry, this biography explores the life of one of American history’s most controversial figures. A great deal of academic study has been published recently about John Brown. This is the first book for young readers to include these new attitudes and research.
In the late 1850s, at a time when many men and women spoke out against slavery, few had the same impact as John Brown, the infamous white abolitionist who backed his beliefs with unstoppable action. His dedication to freeing the American slaves made him one of the most recognizable leaders in the liberation movement to end slavery.
Told through engaging, thoughtful narration and bold, dynamic illustrations, John Brown: His Fight for Freedom is a fitting reminder that all men and women are created equal, and that some things are worth fighting for. The book includes an author’s note, a bibliography, and an index.

F&P level: U

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This unflinching biography by illustrator Hendrix (Abe Lincoln Crosses the Creek), his first as author, begins with a lucid summary of the antislavery movement, pre–Civil War politics and Brown's early activities in the underground railroad. With the massacre of proslavery settlers at Pottawatomie Creek, Hendrix zooms in closer to reconstruct the abolitionist's transformation into an outlaw (“John's ruthless tactics spread fear into the hearts of the Border Ruffians and others, but also branded John a crazed madman”). The violent raid in Harper's Ferry, Va., leads to Brown's arrest and execution and is the climactic event of this compelling narrative. In an author's note, Hendrix opines why Brown should be admired as visionary, not villain (“Terrorists crave destruction and turmoil, and the seed of John's rebellion was compassion”). An aptly polarized palette of saturated amber and blue acrylic washes with pen and ink lends the folk hero's tale hyperbolic splendor (in one memorable spread Brown metamorphoses into a tornado). Hand-hewn, period-fashion fonts spell out Brown's pronouncements and biblical quotations, underlining his convictions. A strong introduction to Brown's controversial legacy. Ages 8–12. (Oct.)\
Children's Literature - Leila Toledo
John Brown was a complex and controversial person but his strong desire for justice for slaves was unflinching. When I was working in Washington, D.C. I made it a point of going to Harper's Ferry to walk the streets to feel, see and imagine what it what it was like for John Brown and his sons on that fateful day. It does not matter whether you see him as a hero or a criminal, you have to admit that he was an imposing figure willing to die for his convictions. Most stories of John Brown that I have read do not include the "Bleeding Kansas" episode. His ruthless tactic in this situation does cause one to pause and question his judgment. It is mentioned that John Brown approached Harriet Tubman and invited her to join him on his assault on Harpers Ferry, Virginia. At the time Harpers Ferry was part of Virginia and did not become part of West Virginia until 1863. However, Harriet Tubman became ill and was unable to join him on the attack. How would it have tuned out, for her, if she had joined him at Harpers Ferry? The author has, I think, provided a balanced account of the life and deeds of this controversial figure. Reviewer: Leila Toledo
School Library Journal
Gr 4–8—John Brown is a larger-than-life figure in Hendrix's bold pen-and-ink drawings washed in acrylic. The historical account begins with a somewhat terse explanation of Brown's beliefs and respect for his "free black neighbors." Hendrix discusses the array of attitudes about slavery in the 1840s. He goes on to describe Brown's growing passion as the Kansas-Nebraska Act stirred up the controversy and he met Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, who responded differently to his militant stand. Though the book is laid out across full spreads with substantial text, the energetic and often disproportionate characters and the bold array of typefaces in conversation, labels, and quotes blend picture-book and graphic elements. The narrative is both colorful and blunt as Brown's campaign to raise an army develops. "Like a great fuming tornado, John swept across the plains to fight for Kansas…John and his sons stormed the houses of five pro-slavery settlers,…took the men to the creek, and killed them with broadswords." The tragedy grows, of course, with the raveling raid at Harpers Ferry. Hendrix closes with Brown's unwavering words at his execution and brief commentary on the ensuing publicity. "His war did not bring freedom, but his voice roused a complacent nation to action." Brown's famous/infamous campaign is covered only briefly in children's books on the Civil War; this thought-provoking presentation on the man and his time could also stimulate discussion of militancy in today's world.—Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston
Kirkus Reviews
John Brown, with a makeshift flag in one hand and a tiny African-American tot cradled in the other, stands heroically on the jacket of this handsome picture-book biography. His face may be wizened and worn, but his eyes are fixed solely on the future, where he believed one day blacks would become not only free but equal. Often considered a madman or, at best, a tyrannical abolitionist, Brown had another side-one that was so overwhelmed by injustice that he simply had to act. Blood was shed as a result, especially in his attack on pro-slavery settlers in Kansas and the failed raid on Harper's Ferry, but compassion fueled his fight. In sweeping acrylic washes and with speech bubbles that unfurl across entire spreads, Hendrix makes Brown loom larger than life, and rightly so. His magazine-illustration background is evident in spreads that combine the iconic and the realistic to compress the visual storytelling into one heightened image. Not a story for the younger set, but an important view of one of the most controversial men in American history. (author's note, sources, index) (Informational picture book. 8-12)

Product Details

Abrams, Harry N., Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
9.30(w) x 11.20(h) x 0.50(d)
990L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

John Hendrix lives in St. Louis, Missouri, with his wife and two children, and teaches illustration at Washington University. He has won numerous awards for his drawings, and his illustrations have been featured in the New Yorker, Rolling Stone, and the New York Times. This is his first children’s book that he has both written and illustrated. He illustrated Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek: A Tall, Thin Tale, which was named an ALA Notable Book. Visit his Web site at

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