David Rubel - Author, Historian, Speaker
The Carpenter's Gift

Category: Children's
Publisher: Random House
Pages: 48
Publication Date: September 2011


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The Carpenter’s Gift
A Christmas Tale About the Rockefeller Center Tree
By David Rubel
Illustrated by Jim LaMarche


Publisher’s Description
Christmas Eve, 1931

Henry and his out-of-work father have just finished a long day selling Christmas trees in Midtown Manhattan. Before heading home, they give away the last few trees to construction workers, who decorate the tallest one—the first Rockefeller Center tree! On Christmas morning, Henry awakes to a surprise. The workers have gathered outside his family’s drafty shack with enough lumber to build a simple, decent home. The gift of a hammer from one of the carpenters changes Henry’s life.


With renewed hope for the future, young Henry plants a pinecone he has saved from the Rockefeller Center tree. Over his lifetime, the pinecone grows into a towering spruce. But the circle of giving is not yet complete....


Written by children’s historian David Rubel in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity, and illustrated by Jim LaMarche, The Carpenter’s Gift celebrates the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, an American tradition. Each year, the tree is milled into lumber that Habitat for Humanity uses to build a simple, decent home with a family in need.



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


The heartwarming tale told in The Carpenter’s Gift brings together—through beautiful illustrations and a moving, multigenerational story—two great traditions: the Rockefeller Center tree and the neighbor-helping-neighbor program of Habitat for Humanity.
—Jimmy Carter




Booklist review
[The Carpenter’s Gift] tells a good story. The year is 1931, one of the worst of the Great Depression. A boy named Henry, who lives about an hour from New York City, joins his father in chopping some spruce trees and then taking them to sell in the big city. They travel in a borrowed truck, the boy filled with anticipation, since he has never before been in the city. They find their way to the site of the emerging Rockefeller Center. Some kind construction workers help them unload the trees. Father and son sell many trees, but not all, and decide to give them to the workers in gratitude for their help. The workers decorate the tallest tree, the first in Rockefeller Center, and when Henry goes home with his father, after making a wish for them to live in a warm house, he carries a pine cone with him. The following morning, he is awoken by car horns. The workers, touched by the father and son, have shown up, and then.… Well, they return the kindness. Because this is a book about kindness, decency and memory, I’d rather not spoil the final movement.



Horn Book Review

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.