The Carpenter's Gift: A Christmas Tale about the Rockefeller Center Tree

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Overview

Family, friendship, and the spirit of giving are at the heart of this inspiring picture book. Opening in Depression-era New York, The Carpenter's Gift tells the story of eight-year-old Henry and his out-of-work father selling Christmas trees in Manhattan. They give one of their leftover trees to construction workers building Rockefeller Center. That tree becomes the first Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, the finest Henry has seen when adorned with homemade decorations. Henry wishes on the tree for a nice, warm ...

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Overview

Family, friendship, and the spirit of giving are at the heart of this inspiring picture book. Opening in Depression-era New York, The Carpenter's Gift tells the story of eight-year-old Henry and his out-of-work father selling Christmas trees in Manhattan. They give one of their leftover trees to construction workers building Rockefeller Center. That tree becomes the first Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, the finest Henry has seen when adorned with homemade decorations. Henry wishes on the tree for a nice, warm house to replace his family's drafty, one-room shack. Through the kindness of new friends and old neighbors, Henry's wish is granted, and he plants a pinecone to commemorate the event. As an old man, Henry repays the gift by donating to Rockefeller Center the enormous tree that has grown from that pinecone. After bringing joy to thousands as a beautiful Christmas tree, its wood will be used to build a home for a family in need.

Written by children's nonfiction author David Rubel, in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity, The Carpenter's Gift features charming, full-color illustrations by Jim LaMarche.

From the Hardcover edition.

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  • The Carpenter's Gift
    The Carpenter's Gift  

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Ever since construction workers building New York’s Rockefeller Center put up a humble Christmas tree on site in 1931, the annual tradition has become a gift that keeps on giving. 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. An afterword highlights Rockfeller Center owner Tishman Speyer’s recent partnership with Habitat for Humanity, which earmarks the tree to be milled for lumber post-Christmas for a family in need. Ages 5–8. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Denise Hartzler
In this heartwarming tale readers are introduced to the Rockefeller Center Tree in New York City and given an early portrayal of Habitat for Humanity. The story is set in 1931 during the great Depression. Henry lives with his parents in an unheated shack outside the city. Henry's father borrows a truck, cuts down several trees and he and Henry go into the city to sell the trees as Christmas trees. At the end of the day Henry and his father donate unsold trees to construction workers at Rockefeller Center. With one tree left, the workers and Henry decorate the tree with homemade items. In the evening when the streetlights came on, the tree sparkles and in that moment Henry makes a Christmas wish. As Henry's Christmas wish comes true, he plants a pinecone. Readers will delight in seeing both Henry and a tree growing together. As time passes, Henry must make the decision on whether or not he should cut his special spruce tree to be the official Christmas tree of New York City's Rockefeller Center. The illustrations capture the tenderness of the people and of the season. This book is wonderfully written and beautifully illustrated. A Christmas treat for all family members! Reviewer: Denise Hartzler
Kirkus Reviews

An elderly man named Henry recalls the Christmas season of 1931 in this relatively long story that connects the Depression era to Habitat for Humanity via the enormous Christmas trees at Rockefeller Center in New York City.

A boy of 9 or 10, Henry lives with his parents in a tiny, unheated shack in the country. Henry helps his father cut down evergreen trees to take to the city to sell, and there they befriend some men working on the construction of Rockefeller Center. Together they decorate a makeshift Christmas tree; Henry's father gives the last of the trees to the workers. On Christmas morning the workers respond by arriving at Henry's home with materials to build a new house. The boy receives a hammer from one of the men, and Henry grows up to be a skilled carpenter himself. In a Dickensian series of coincidences, a huge tree on Henry's land is chosen as a Christmas tree for Rockefeller Center, with wood milled from the tree to be given to a family for their new house. Henry meets the young girl whose family will receive the wood and passes his treasured hammer on to her. Luminous illustrations in a large format have a muted, shimmering quality, especially in the concluding view of the magical tree at Rockefeller Center.

A sentimental but touching story with beautifully realized illustrations. (author's note)(Picture book. 5-9)

From the Publisher
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

From the Hardcover edition.

School Library Journal
Gr 1–4—During the Great Depression in New York City, young Henry lives with his out-of-work parents in a drafty shack and sells Christmas trees with his father. Giving a tall tree to some friendly construction workers results in the workers helping to build a house for his family; years later, a pinecone Henry plants becomes a Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, which is then milled for wood to build a home for another needy family. 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. Appendixes tell the true story of the origin of the Rockefeller Center tree and describe the mission of Habitat for Humanity International.—Linda Israelson, Los Angeles Public Library
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375869228
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 9/27/2011
  • Pages: 48
  • Sales rank: 290,477
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.70 (w) x 11.60 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

DAVID RUBEL is a nationally recognized author and speaker whose work focuses on making American history accessible to a broad audience. His most recent book, If I Had a Hammer, includes a foreward by former president Jimmy Carter. David's children's books, The Scholastic Encyclopedia of the Presidents and Their Times and The Scholastic Atlas of the United States have both become grade-school standards, selling more than half a million copies each in multiple editions.

JIM LAMARCHE has illustrated over 20 children's books, some of which he has also written. His lushly rendered illustrations appear in our recent release, The Day Tiger Rose Said Goodbye, by Jane Yolen. His work has been awarded the Parents magazine Best Book of the Year; the Irma S. and James H. Black Award for Excellence in Picture Books; and the American Bookseller Association Pick-of-the-List. He lives in central California with his wife and children.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 1, 2011

    Highly recommended for children of all ages

    I purchased two copies of this book for each of my grandsons, ages 2 and 4. The story is simple and easy to follow for the 2 year old, yet filled with meaning that our 4 year old (and older children) can understand. The text on each page is not lengthy; small children will not lose interest. Additionally, the story holds the interest of older children as well. The illustrations are beautiful and lend extra spark to the story. This is a lovely book, historically based, and the story is directly linked to the book's afterword regarding the work of Habitat for Humanity. I hearly recommend this book to parents, grandparents, godparents, and teachers!

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 28, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Love this book!

    We are growing our collection of Christmas books and this quickly became one of my favorites this year. A great book for the whole family!

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  • Posted December 25, 2012

    I highly recommend The Carpenter's Gift for ages 8 to adult.

    As an artist the trailer sold me first. I was also familiar with the lighting of the Rockefeller Center tree at Christmas. After my book arrived I found incredible art work and a heart-warming, honest story that I couldn't wait to read to my grandchildren, 2 boys and one girl (8-11 years). I saw an opportunity to teach them about giving, in current times and always, because of the link to Habitat for Humanity. They loved it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2012

    Highly recommended!,

    Wonderful book. The story is heartwarming and the illustrations are beautiful. I have sent it to my grandchildren in Atlanta so that they to can share in the story of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

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  • Posted November 26, 2012

    My children love this story and especially how it relates to the

    My children love this story and especially how it relates to the actually Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center and Jim LaMarche (the illustrator) is one of our favorites - the pictures are breathtaking! Great book for anyone for the holidays.

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  • Posted January 5, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Highly Recommended

    It's a children's book and I'm a senior citizen, but I'd seen an except of this book along with a story on the illustrator in Habitat for Humanity's magazine and I knew I wanted to read the story and see each illustration. Instead of getting a printed copy I got it as an eBook for my color NOOK. I was not disappointed. It's a wonderful story and the illustrations are just gorgeous.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2011

    Sweet story

    I love the message of this story. A good book to help today's children connect with a modern day symbol of Christmas spirit.

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