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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A complicated character
I always have an eye out for kids books to introduce my kids (who are black/white biracial) to events and people in black history, including slavery, abolition, Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Movement. Currently they are only ages two and four, so I haven't actually introduced the topic, but they will have an impressive library when the time comes. I became...
Published on March 28, 2011 by Dienne

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3.0 out of 5 stars A different take on John Brown
John Brown led an attack on Harper's Ferry in an attempt to obtain weaponry for his army, an army he hoped to use to defeat slavery. The attack did not go off as planned and Brown was hung for his efforts. I've always seen Brown as a terrorist, but he is not presented this way in the book; he comes across as a man who deplored slavery, loved God, and desperately wanted to...
Published on March 18, 2012 by Debnance at Readerbuzz


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A complicated character, March 28, 2011
I always have an eye out for kids books to introduce my kids (who are black/white biracial) to events and people in black history, including slavery, abolition, Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Movement. Currently they are only ages two and four, so I haven't actually introduced the topic, but they will have an impressive library when the time comes. I became interested in John Brown in particular when I read "Lies My Teacher Told Me". This was the first time I ever heard - or thought about, to be honest - the other side of the story. Until recently, history has painted John Brown as a wild-eyed, insane and dangerous radical who was a threat to the Union and its population. But, like many other so-called dangerous radicals in history - the socialists, the anarchists, the Black Panthers, etc. - perhaps those radicals weren't as dangerous as they've been portrayed. Or perhaps the danger they represented wasn't so much physical danger.

I give John Hendrix kudos for his balanced presentation in this book. He doesn't portray Brown as either a wild-eyed crazy man or a hero, but perhaps a bit of both, with a lot of ordinary humanity thrown into the mix. Brown's father was a staunch abolitionist, so from earliest childhood Brown was raised with the idea that blacks should be free. Brown and his father were also devout Christians, in the full sense of doing their best to follow the teachings of Christ who tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Against this background, Brown took the abolitionist position to an "extreme" that even most abolitionists of his day didn't espouse: he believed that not only should blacks be free, they should be equal with whites.

Brown believed that the evils of slavery needed to be ended by strong means. Protests and other strictly democratic means wouldn't do it so long as the slave owners held power. After years of helping to free slaves a few at a time on the Underground Railroad, Brown came to believe that more direct methods were needed. He proposed small raids on slave owners to make slave-holding economically unviable and to spread the word about the plight of enslaved blacks. Some of the slaves who were freed this way would stay and fight with Brown for the freedom of other slaves.

Brown didn't like bloodshed, but he was drawn into it during the "bleeding Kansas" time when slavery proponents burned crops and threatened people in order to keep Kansas a slave state. Brown and his men took several pro-slave settlers who had been threatening his family and slew them in the woods with broadswords. A wanted man, Brown then fled, traveling the country in disguise recruiting both blacks and whites for the anti-slavery cause.

Brown wanted one big strike to get the nation's attention. He planned the raid on the vulnerable Harper's Ferry. He worked with Harriet Tubman, but unfortunately she became ill and was unable to proceed. Brown tried to recruit Frederick Douglass, but Douglass could see only defeat, bloodshed and set back in Brown's plan, despite his general support of Brown and his mission.

The raid went off smoothly at first, but took longer than expected and was complicated by the arrival of a train full of people. Too many to take captive and unwilling to kill so many innocent people, John let them go, which proved his undoing. Local townsmen had had time to figure out what was going on and get organized. After the townsmen killed many of his men, Brown soon found himself holed up near the armory and was soon captured by U.S. marines, tried (essentially a show trial) and executed. Defiant and proud to the end, Brown's final words about rights and justice still ring through the decades.

This book offers enough action and excitement to interest even reluctant readers and those who find history "boring". There is also enough moral ambiguity to chew on and make for excellent classroom and/or parent-child discussions. Perhaps the best part of the book is the author's note at the end, in which Hendrix confronts the moral challenges inherent in John Brown's story. Hendrix doesn't white-wash Brown's violence nor does he excuse it. But he does contextualize it in terms of the enormity of the horrors of slavery, the standards of the times, and the contrasts in Brown's character - his compassion, his zeal for abolition and equal rights and his unwavering conviction and commitment to fight for justice.

Unlike other reviewers, I'm not terribly keen on the illustrations. Hendrix' portrayal of Brown in particular is rather caricatured - emphasizing his large chin, long beard and hard eyes seems to feed into the caricature of Brown as a wild-eyed maniac. But then again, perhaps there is no good way to draw such a dynamic figure as John Brown and still capture the sheer force of his charisma.

Certainly not recommended for young children, but very much recommended for kids old enough to understand the horrors of slavery and to wrestle with the moral ambiguity of using violence to right a terrible wrong.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a sparkling biography that makes John Brown come alive and speak his piece once again!, December 28, 2009
John Brown and his family lived in Hudson, Ohio. In 1840 slavery was still going on, but John and his father Owen, both staunch abolitionists, felt differently. John "wanted black people to be treated as equal to white people." Ohio was a "free state," but many states still considered slaves to be nothing more than property. Both father and son played active roles in the Underground Railroad. As a devout Christian John had some ideas that people thought were downright crazy. He was determined to bring the attention of his cause to the nation. It was a nation that wasn't ready to free its slave population or listen to a man who might not be quite right in the head.

One time when he was at church, he noticed that his black friends were seated in the back pew. The Browns' pew was the best in the house and when he insisted they trade places the congregation "demanded that John and his family leave the church immediately." His fight did not end in a small church, but continued on through the years and around the nation. Frederick Douglass was "impressed with this mighty foe of slavery." By 1854 he was thumping on pro-slavery groups in Kansas and became a wanted man for all his efforts. He met Harriet Tubman and found an ally. He had a plan to attack Harpers Ferry, Virginia, but would he succeed or die trying?

This biography is an excellent, scholarly work and an extremely fascinating read. I liked the easy pace of the story and was impressed with the amount of information contained in its pages. John Brown, a man with ideas before his time, was portrayed as a man who was so dedicated to his cause he would literally die for it if he had to. The artwork was very appealing with its bold, vibrant and no nonsense illustrations. In the back of the book the author discusses John Brown and offers some of his own opinions. There is an index and select sources, many of which could be used for additional research if a student so chose to do so. This is a sparkling biography that makes John Brown come alive and speak his piece once again!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Book Review: LibraryLoungeLizard.com, March 9, 2010
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.

What will draw kids to pick up this book is the stunning artwork...it is amazing what can be done with a pen, some ink and acrylic paint! This is a wonderful story about a man before his time. A man who didn't see color, he just saw another human being.

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.

The story itself does not sugar-coat Johns reputation as a passionate (albeit zealous) opponent of slavery. His methods of fighting slavery have been debated over the last 150 years but his focus to end the barbaric practice of owning other human beings has never been questioned.

I think this is a great book for discussion in the middle grades for all different levels of readers. It really opens the door for kids to debate the question....Was John Brown was a hero for civil rights or an over zealot vigilante?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative and Beautiful, March 15, 2010
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I got this book for the illustrations, which are wonderful, and was surprised to find the subject matter extremely interesting. It seems to be presented in an even-handed, and un-flinchingly truthy manner. Well done John Hendrix.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Offers learners in grades 3-4 an excellent survey, October 20, 2009
JOHN BROWN: HIS FIGHT FOR FREEDOM tells of a man who would stop at nothing to end slavery, backing ideals with actions and taking center stage as one of the most well-known white abolitionists in history. Based on new scholarly findings, JOHN BROWN: HIS FIGHT FOR FREEDOM offers learners in grades 3-4 an excellent survey.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, September 12, 2009
By 
Kevin G. Summers (Amissville, VA United States) - See all my reviews
I loved this book. It is, by far, the best looking children's biography I've ever seen. The artwork is not only breathtaking, but is also in the style of political cartoons of the period. This book is really something special, and I hope to see John Hendrix use his talents to write and draw the lives of other notable figures such as Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and just about anyone.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Book about a very controversial topic, April 22, 2014
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This book gives a very balanced portrait of the life of John Brown, who comes across as a kind of biblical zealot siezed with the horror of slavery's injustice.

The book does not encourage violence. It points out that Brown seized the armory in order to obtain weapons. He had no desire or even need to kill people. He delayed his departure unwisely out of compassion for prisoners he had taken. The only shooting death of a civilian he was unaware of and did not order.

The earlier killings in Kansas were in self-defense against armed vigilantes who were burning abolitionist farms and killing their owners and families. Violence was endemic to the slavery struggle long before the Civil War broke out. The people who caused bleeding Kansas were never brought to justice, yet Brown's critics are totally silent about their campaign of destruction intimidation and killing. Unlike these ruffians, Brown took every effort to spare innocent life.

There are times when rising up is the only reasonable response to unreasonable laws. How else would you describe our own American Revolution?
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3.0 out of 5 stars A different take on John Brown, March 18, 2012
This review is from: John Brown: His Fight for Freedom (Hardcover)
John Brown led an attack on Harper's Ferry in an attempt to obtain weaponry for his army, an army he hoped to use to defeat slavery. The attack did not go off as planned and Brown was hung for his efforts. I've always seen Brown as a terrorist, but he is not presented this way in the book; he comes across as a man who deplored slavery, loved God, and desperately wanted to stop slavery in America.

The pictures are fun and bright and add a lot to the book. The text
would be perfect for an older group of readers, such as junior high or high school students.

An author's note explains why Hendrix came to write the book and shows where Hendrix obtained his information. The book also includes a list of sources.

A bite of the book:"Like a great fuming tornado, John swept across the plains to fight for Kansas. He fought many battles on those windy plains, but it was a dark night along Pottawatomie Creek that made him notorious. John and his sons stormed the houses of five pro-slavery settlers who had been threatening his family and other abolitionists, took the men to the creek, and killed them with broadswords. John's ruthless tactics spread fear into the hearts of the Border Ruffians and others, but also branded John a crazed madman...."
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4.0 out of 5 stars Outside the Box!, November 12, 2009
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Tas Jargan (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
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Very innovative way to tell the story of John Brown. Very beautiful illustrations with creative use of typography. Text is very accurate and easy to read.

I give 4 out of 5 stars only because of the fact that this book doesn't include other amazing John Brown illustrations by John Hendrix. You can find them on his website and elsewhere online, and I was disappointed that they didn't make it into this book.

Sorry, can't get enough of Hendrix!
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3 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Glosses violence, January 29, 2010
By 
Illustrations: excellent.

Message: terrorism and murder are good things if the cause is a good cause.
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John Brown: His Fight for Freedom
John Brown: His Fight for Freedom by John Hendrix (Hardcover - October 1, 2009)
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