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If I Had a Hammer: Building Homes and Hope with Habitat for Humanity

If I Had a Hammer: Building Homes and Hope with Habitat for Humanity

by David Rubel, Jimmy Carter (Foreword by)
President Jimmy Carter’s compelling anecdotes inspire a personal look at Habitat for Humanity that is sure to fire up a younger generation.

Somewhere in West Virginia, a thirteen-year-old girl now invites friends home without embarrassment. In a Brazilian village, children no longer sleep beneath a table when the heavy rains come. For a quarter-century


President Jimmy Carter’s compelling anecdotes inspire a personal look at Habitat for Humanity that is sure to fire up a younger generation.

Somewhere in West Virginia, a thirteen-year-old girl now invites friends home without embarrassment. In a Brazilian village, children no longer sleep beneath a table when the heavy rains come. For a quarter-century in over ninety countries, Habitat for Humanity has built homes with and for the people who need them, aided by more than a million multigenerational volunteers. Two of the most devoted are former president Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn — and now this captivating account, abundantly illustrated with photos, relays their favorite stories with special resonance for young readers. Exploring everything from creative home design (like using window bars in India to keep out monkeys) to the emotional rewards of helping to build a house from the ground up, this is an essential resource for inspiring future youth volunteers.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"You have it in your power to ease suffering. Do it. You will be surprised how happy it makes you."
Ann Curry, NBC News — Quote

"This is an inspiring book, telling how ideas starting on a little farm in Georgia have grown to a worldwide movement bringing people together. How? Read it."
Pete Seeger, American folk singer and co-writer of the song, "If I Had a Hammer." — Quote

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Publishers Weekly
In a foreword, former president Carter, who became a hands-on participant in Habitat for Humanity after leaving office, notes that in Habitat's homebuilding work he and his wife, Rosalynn, have found a way “to put our faith into practice.” Personal insights from the Carters, other volunteers, Habitat homeowners and several celebrities who have worked with the organization (Jamie Lee Curtis, Garth Brooks) add diverse voices to Rubel's (Scholastic Encyclopedia of the Presidents and Their Times) uplifting account of the group's mission and accomplishments. The book offers many intriguing nuts and bolts, as Rubel offers a chronicle of Habitat's origins and detailed rundowns of construction processes. Especially eye-opening are vignettes about projects in developing countries, where Habitat strives to reconcile modern building methods with local customs (as when “outdoor toilets are the cultural norm and indoor toilets are considered bizarre”). Copious photos of substandard housing in the U.S. and around the world, the Habitat homes that replaced them and the gratified residents who helped build them underscore both the physical and emotional benefits of the group's work. Ages 9–13. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Amanda MacGregor
This in-depth and inspirational look at Habitat for Humanity begins with a foreword by President Jimmy Carter, a long-time champion of Habitat. Carter explains how he and his wife got involved with the organization, whose goal is to rid the world of substandard housing. Throughout each chapter, the dedication and support of the Carters is woven into every story. The exhaustive examination of Habitat tells of what led to its formation in 1976, how the Carters got involved in 1984, and discusses Habitat's projects. Moving personal stories of both volunteers and housing recipients are offered in every chapter, illustrating how much passionate work goes into every project and the life-altering changes building and receiving a home offers. A chapter examines how Habitat designs and builds its homes, including the unique considerations and challenges each project faces. It also details the step-by-step work and on the job training that takes place. Chapters on the international work Habitat does and volunteers worldwide offer a global perspective on substandard housing. The key message throughout is that decent housing is a basic human right. The personal stories, from President Carter and other volunteers, convey just how important this organization is. Filled with photographs from building sites around the world, this informative book's main strength is its powerful stories from those who are forever changed by their work with Habitat for Humanity. This is an excellent resource for classrooms, providing opportunities for discussions on charity, poverty, volunteerism, and communities. Reviewer: Amanda MacGregor
VOYA - Kevin Beach
This inspirational book, with contributor former President Jimmy Carter, is full of anecdotes aimed at prodding the youngest generation to get involved in Habitat for Humanity, an organization that builds homes for needy families in more than ninety countries around the world. This account begins with the early life of Millard Fuller, Habitat's founder, who learned as a child to care about the poor, living in rural Alabama on a farming commune where blacks and whites coexisted as equals. From this controversial beginning, Fuller conceived the idea to rid the world of substandard housing by making affordable homes with volunteer labor. No matter whether it is in rural West Virginia or a remote village in Laos, the families highlighted in the story marvel at the life-changing leg up the Habitat homes have provided to them. Builders are sensitive to the ecosystems, water conservation, and other unique issues (like putting bars on windows to keep monkeys out in India) so not all homes are alike. Besides discussing the organization, training, and fundraising efforts required to keep the program running, a final segment in the book examines how a house is actually built from the ground up. Interspersed with inspirational testimony and photos from new homeowners and some of the more than one million regular volunteers, the text is straightforward but readable and will surely enlighten young people about this uplifting organization and inspire them to participate. The author has contributed to several juvenile reference books. Reviewer: Kevin Beach
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—After his presidency, Jimmy Carter embraced his ideals by promoting a humanitarian project. He found one when he decided to build houses for needy families through Habitat for Humanity. Carter's prestige and determination helped the group grow from 7 employees and 40 volunteers in 1980 to one million volunteers in 2009. This book examines how Habitat got its start, what participation means to its volunteers, and its mission today. Enthusiastically and in clear, simple terms, Rubel gives interesting commentary about just what it takes for a group of novices to join together to build a house, including the basic construction and architectural tasks involved. The author also highlights some unique challenges. Focusing on plumbing issues, for example, composting toilets, communal bathrooms, and outhouses doubling as chicken coops make for a surprisingly interesting as well as inspirational story. Besides the facts and practical information, the uplifting spirit behind Habitat for Humanity is captured through the full-color photographs, quotes, and reflections of volunteers and housing recipients. A great choice for book reports as well as for additional biographical information about President Carter.—Margaret Auguste, Franklin Middle School, Somerset, NJ
Kirkus Reviews
An eloquent preface by Habitat for Humanity's most prominent volunteer kicks off this moving introduction to a sampling of the other volunteers who have worked on and/or now live in some of the 300,000-plus homes the organization has built. Rubel traces Habitat's history and describes how it typically first goes about selecting families to work with, then plans and constructs safe, sturdy homes-but it's the stories of the people involved that make the most compelling reading, from President Carter's first meeting with Habitat's founder Millard Fuller ("I didn't know who this nut from my hometown was, but my first impression was negative") to Filipino washerwoman Emma Bocalan's epiphanic "Look at my beautiful home!" and veteran volunteer Sherwood Kirk's closing "I mean, they're letting us build their home, and we're getting so much more out of it than they are." Sheaves of color photos featuring construction sites and joyful faces underscore the theme that giving people not "a handout but a hand up" is genuinely worthy work. (afterword, index, "How to Get Involved") (Nonfiction. 11-18)

Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
7.60(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.80(d)
1150L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 18 Years

Meet the Author


Jimmy Carter served as the thirty-ninth president of the United States from 1977 to 1981 and was the recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize. A prolific author, Jimmy Carter has published more than twenty books. He lives with his wife, Rosalynn, in Plains, Georgia.

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