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The Carpenter's Gift: A Christmas Tale about the Rockefeller Center Tree Hardcover – September 27, 2011
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Sample Photos fromThe Carpenter's Gift
Review, The Horn Book, November/December 2011
"Rubel’s story of compassion hits all the right holiday notes; LaMarche’s lush, warm illustrations of glowing Christmas trees and smiling, caring characters drive home the central message of charity."
Review, School Library Journal, October 1, 2011
"Detailed characterizations and a straightforward tone keep the tender tale from becoming saccharine. LaMarche’s almost impressionistic colored-pencil illustrations put readers in the midst of the action."
Review, Publishers Weekly, September 26, 2011
"Author/historian Rubel’s story of a Depression-era family’s connection to that first tree—and the ripple effect of its bounties—puts the now magnificent symbol in perspective. LaMarche conveys emotional resonance with gauzy, soft-hued paintings of the inspirational proceedings."
“The Carpenter’s Gift captures two of New York City’s greatest traditions ― the Rockefeller Center tree lighting and giving back to people in need― in a way that families can share together all year long.” ― Michael R. Bloomberg, Mayor of the City of New York
“The heartwarming tale told in The Carpenter’s Gift brings together—through beautiful illustrations and a moving, multi-generational story—two great traditions: the Rockefeller Center tree and the neighbor-helping-neighbor program of Habitat for Humanity.” —Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States and dedicated Habitat volunteer
“Through my support of Habitat for Humanity, I have seen all of the good that can happen when people work alongside each other to build something better. I see the same thread in The Carpenter’s Gift, a sweet story” about a young boy whose life is changed when new friends help his family build a house — Susan Sarandon, actress
“My dad was a carpenter who built the house we grew up in, and this book brings to mind his gentle nature and generosity.” — Garrison Keillor, storyteller
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The 11 3/4 inch by 8 3/4 inch books has a most wonderful eye catching dust jacket depicting the main character, Henry, holding a handmade Christmas ornament. The book's title on the dust jacket is embossed in red shiny foil and will capture the attention of most children. The illustrator, Jim La Marche, has rendered the historical period and emotions of the characters in what appears to be beautiful pastel drawings. Every other page is a full color full page drawing that accurately conveys the emotions of the characters and meanings of the text.
The story begins at the height of the Great Depression in 1931. Henry lives in an unheated shack with his parents. One day his father borrows a truck and invites Henry to go with him. They drive to an area where many spruce trees are growing. Henry and his father cut down many trees and transport them to New York City where they sell them as Christmas trees. When they had finished selling the trees for the day, there were several large trees left over. Henry's father donates them to the construction workers who were kind enough to let Henry and his father sell trees on their building site. The workers decorate the trees with all sorts of homemade items. In the evening when the street lights came on the tree sparkled like nothing Henry had ever seen. In the beauty of the moment Henry makes a Christmas wish for a real house.
Henry and his father were in for a special Christmas day treat. All the construction workers collected discarded construction lumber and brought it to Henry's house on their day off. There on Christmas Day they construct a new house for Henry and his family. On the day that Henry and his father cut Chritmas trees Henry found a pine cone. He planted it. Just as Henry grew and matured, so did the Pine tree. It became a very stately tree. Henry becomes an old man and the spruce becomes a huge beautiful specimen. One day a man comes by and asks Henry if he would be willing to donate the tree to Rockefeller Center as their annual Christmas tree. At first Henry had difficulty with the idea of parting with his good friend, the spruce tree, which shared much of Henry's life. Henry asked the man what would happen to the tree at the end of the Holiday Season. The man said that it would be cut up and the lumber used to build a home for a family in need. Upon hearing that, Henry knew what he must do. He thought back to the year 1931 and thought to himself, "I have been given so much, I want to give something back." The end of the story shows how that gift kept giving. You will want to read this delightful story and share it with children from Kindergarten to 6th Grade and beyond. Actually adults will also enjoy the story.
At the end of the book the author gives a historical account of the Rockefeller Center's Christmas tree tradition. A brief explanation and history of Habitat for Humanity is also given. Not only is this book a delightful Christmas tale, it also exposes the reader to the wonderful work of Habitat for Humanity and may capture the reader's attention to actually volunteer or contribute to this worthwhile community outreach program of neighbor helping neighbor. Indeed, the best gifts are the ones we don't expect!
It teaches one a little bit about the choosing of a tree for the Rockefeller Center, and years it takes to grow the trees that are chosen for Rockefeller Center and the White House. If is a story taking place during the Depression and about the involvement of Habitat for Humanity in helping needy people have a new home. Anyone who enjoys a "pay it forward" type story, will enjoy sharing this with their children.