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The best presents are the ones you don’t expect. -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

The best presents are the ones you don’t expect.

A new children’s book about the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is a story for every season.


Artwork by Jim LaMarche


It had been the best day that Henry could remember, and he didn’t want it to end. He stood before the decorated tree, enchanted. The streetlamps had just come on, and the tin cans glittered in their light. If ever there was a magic moment, Henry thought, this is it.

He decided to make a special Christmas wish. He wished that one day his family would live in a nice, warm house. – The Carpenter’s Gift

Sometimes, a simple act of kindness takes on a life of its own. An illustrated children’s book published later this September brings that lesson home — and celebrates a real-life partnership that helps a family build a decent, affordable house each year.

Written by David Rubel in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity and illustrated by Jim LaMarche, The Carpenter’s Gift tells the story of Henry, a young boy growing up in Depression-era New York. At the end of a day selling Christmas trees in Midtown Manhattan, Henry and his father give the last few to nearby construction workers. When the tallest of the leftover trees is decorated on the spot with tin cans and paper garlands, it becomes the very first Rockefeller Center Christmas tree — a tree that enchants young Henry and the first in a series of moments that end up changing his life.

The construction workers, having become acquainted with Henry and his father, show up the next day to help them build a simple, decent home to replace their drafty shack with its patched walls and ill-fitting windows. At the end of their work, they leave behind a sturdy new house, a community of neighbors brought together by a building project, and a boy with new hope for the future and a hammer in his hand. As Henry grows older, he finds a wonderful way to turn the blessing he received into a blessing he can share with others.

The story of The Carpenter’s Gift celebrates the magic of an American icon, the annual Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. Each year, that tree is milled into lumber that Habitat volunteers use to build a home with a family like Henry’s. The book honors this fruitful partnership and shares a lesson about the importance of generosity and helping our neighbors.

The Carpenter’s Gift is fundamentally a story about Habitat-style giving,” says Rubel. “All who take part give something emotionally of themselves, and all receive as well.”

“Habitat’s mission allows people from disparate walks of life to make connections that would be unlikely, if not impossible, otherwise,” says Chris Clarke, Habitat’s senior vice president of marketing and communications. “The generous gift of lumber milled from one of the world’s most iconic holiday symbols is one such connection. And now that gift is helping us do more than build homes. It’s helping us open the eyes of young readers to a lasting message of selfless giving, a message I hope we hold as a guiding light in all we do.”

Published on Sept. 27 by Random House Children’s Books, The Carpenter’s Gift will be available from major booksellers and at


Artwork by Jim LaMarche


Be a part of the story.

The 2010 Rockefeller Center Christmas tree was milled into lumber and has been used in a home built by Habitat Greater Newburgh in New York’s mid-Hudson Valley, near the community of Mahopac where the tree grew.

Parts of the tree that couldn’t be turned into lumber have been used to make special paper for a commemorative bookplate that can be placed inside your copy of The Carpenter’s Gift.

Don’t miss the December issue of
Habitat World.
You can learn more about The Carpenter’s Gift today within For a look behind the scenes at the creation of The Carpenter’s Gift and to read more about the Rockefeller Center trees and the Habitat houses they have helped build, watch for the next Habitat World.

Excerpt at top from The Carpenter’s Gift by David Rubel, copyright © 2011 by David Rubel. Reprinted by permission of Random House Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc.