The Carpenter’s Gift

The Carpenter’s Gift: A Christmas Tale About The Rockefeller Center Tree

David Rubel, author and Jim LaMarche, illustrator

Suitable for: Ages 5 and Up

Random House, September 2011, Fiction

Theme:  Giving, Kindness, Depression Era, Christmas Trees, Rockefeller Center

Opening:  “Nearly a lifetime had passed, but Henry could still remember what it felt like to wake up in the old shack, especially during wintertime.  In those days, the Great Depression gripped the country, and like many people, Henry’s parents were out of work.  They couldn’t afford coal for the stove or warm blankets for the beds, so young Henry usually woke up with a shiver.  But he didn’t complain, because it was nobody’s fault.  Instead, he visited warm places in his mind.” 

SynopsisHenry’s father comes up with an idea to make money the day before Christmas. He borrows a truck, and he and Henry head for a grove of spruce trees.  They cut them down and drive to New York City to sell them as Christmas trees.  They find the perfect spot near the Rockefeller construction site in Manhattan.  The workers help them unload the trees.  Before heading home, his father decides to give the last trees to Frank and his construction workers.   Frank takes the tallest tree and the men decorate it with cranberries, pinecones and tin cans — the first Rockefeller Christmas tree.  Henry makes a star out of newspaper.  Before he hangs it on a tree, Henry makes a special wish.  He takes a pine cone from the tree to remember that magical day.

On Christmas morning Henry awakens to tooting horns and trucks full of lumber.  Frank and his workers who have come to build a home for Henry’s family.  Frank hands Henry a hammer to help and to keep as a gift.   Henry is so grateful for his new home, that he decides to plant the pinecone he saved  from the tree near the new house.  Over the years Henry becomes a skilled carpenter.  The spruce tree grows very tall, and Henry grows older.  One day Henry repays the gift that grew from that special pinecone.

Why I like this book:   This is a book that can be celebrated throughout the year.  It is written by children’s historian David Rubel in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity.  Each year the Rockefeller Christmas tree is milled and donated to Habitat for Humanity, to build homes for families in needs.  There is a two-page history about the Rockefeller Christmas tree which was first erected in 1931 by construction workers.   The second page is devoted to Habitat for Humanity International which has built 400,000 homes around the world since 1976.  Jim LaMarche’s illustrations are stunning, gentle, emotional and luminous.

Activity:  Take your family to your community tree lighting ceremony.  Parents and teachers can turn this beautiful story into a tree-planting project at home and school during the year.  Links to resources:   For more books with resources please visit Perfect Picture Books.

Copyright (c) 2011,  Patricia Howe Tilton, All Rights Reserved

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

20 thoughts on “The Carpenter’s Gift

  1. Oh this is beautiful Pat. Reminds me of when I was in Rockefeller center in 2009 standing under that huge tree and watching the lights come on. It was magical!
    Thankyou for sharing such a warm, gentle, giving, story of how it came to be. How wonderful it is used in such a way afterwards to assist housing. The pictures remind me of our special time there. Thankyou Pat!


  2. This book sounds delightful. I feel happy just reading your review. It is definitely a story I’d like to read and share. The cover illustration is so precious and the story behind the story of the Rockefeller tree is captivating. Thanks for sharing this title with us, Pat!


  3. Cool! Very cool! I think I need to research more about Habitat for Humanity International (my Mom told me a little more about it but I want to learn more)! I REALLY want to go to a community tree lighting ceremony (never been to one)!!! Erik


    • Thanks Erik! Glad you liked the story. I hope you get to see your community tree lighting ceremony. Think it’s great for you to learn more about Habitat for Humanity. Former President Jimmy Careter is very involved in this program!


  4. Oh, Pat! This looks wonderful! I gre up in NYC and saw the tree in Rockefeller Center every year, but never knew this story. Based on nothing but your review, I’m going to buy this book for my niece and nephew who live in NYC. I can’t wait to read it (which of course I will do before I give it to them – perks of gift-giving :)) Thanks so much for sharing this one!!!


  5. Wonderful story, Pat! I hadn’t realized the connection with Habitat, and I am delighted to learn of it. Thank you!


  6. I do enjoy historical fiction and many kids do too, especially boys, I find. I know almost nothing about the Rockerfeller Center and I am going to try and see if I can read this when I visit libraries this Christmas.

    Habitat for Humanity is a great organization and I have had students have excellent experiences with them.


    • You must visit Rockefeller Center while you’re there and see the tree. It’s beautiful! I hope you can find the book in the library as it was released in Sept. 2011. My library has it, but I bought this one for me. Yes, Habitat does wonderful things. Former President Jimmy Carter is so involved, and even commented on the book. Nicole did some local Habitat programs when she was in high school. Was glad to know where the tree ends up.


  7. I’ve helped build several houses for Habitat for Humanity and my son has a T shirt with the logo. Will have to tell him about this connection with it. I’ve never seen it for only been in NY twice and not at Christmas but everyone hears about the Rockefeller Center Tree.


    • It is a sight to behold! Hope you see it some day. Yes I agree, Habitat for Humanity is a fantastic organization. My daughter was involvd in high school. I love it they work internationally.


  8. This sounds great. I am adding it to my wish list. In fact – I may go shop for it now. Sometimes I feel like my kids are too spoiled and I want them to realize how lucky they are and that they need to be more appreciative. Plus, this just sounds like a wonderful story! Thanks for another great find Pat. 🙂


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