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A book to build on -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

A book to build on

If I Had a Hammer tells the story of Habitat for young readers.
In author David Rubel’s new book, If Had a Hammer: Building Homes and Hope with Habitat for Humanity, the stories of Habitat come to life for middle schoolers. Readers ages 9-12 can learn about Habitat’s mission and work through specially tailored stories and observations from homeowners, staff and volunteers—including former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who wrote the book’s foreword.



If I Had a Hammer is available at


View a short video of author David Rubel talking about "If I Had a Hammer."


“If I Had a Hammer is an excellent introduction to the world of Habitat,” says Desiree Adaway, the organization’s senior director of volunteer mobilization. “The book really brings home the value of service and citizen engagement. Youth volunteers can make a difference, and with its photographs and relatable stories, “If I Had a Hammer” helps show them how.”

The book’s chapters range from the how-to—exploring Habitat home design and construction around the world—to the why—sharing the need for affordable housing and the rewards of getting involved with Habitat.

An excerpt:

Amber was so embarrassed by the poor condition of her house that it kept her from making friends.

“The house was a daily reminder of how little we actually had,” she explains. When the place where you put everything you have, where you spend your life, is in such bad condition, then of course it’s going to cause you to have self esteem issues. I think that as kids we all tried to act as though nothing was wrong.

Other kids would talk about their houses, and I’d say, ‘Yeah, yeah, me, too.’ But when it came time to sleep over or something, I’d have to say, ‘Oh, no, let’s not do it at my house.’ I didn’t want anybody seeing that house. Even though in some ways I thought it was normal, I knew deep down that it wasn’t something to show off or be proud of. What I really thought was, ‘Why would someone want to be friends with a person who doesn’t have anything?’”

Often when her grandparents were away, Amber would ask her mother for the key to their house so that she could go over there and “chill out for a while.” She was comfortable there, she says, because her grandparents’ house was much nicer than her own. Later, when Habitat for Humanity of Kanawha and Putnam County approved the Ferrell’s for a new home, the decision was made to tear down the old house and build a new one on the same land, which Amber’s grandparents donated to Habitat. “When Habitat knocked that house down, it was a great day,” Amber laughs.

It took about nine months to build the Ferrell’s new house. During much of that time, Amber’s family lived next door with her grandparents. According to Tina Rhodes, it was a familiar sight to see the faces of Amber, Pam, and Jeremy pressed up against the glass of their grandparents’ windows, watching closely as their new house took shape.

The Ferrell’s finally moved in just as Amber was finishing eighth grade. “There was definitely a change,” she recalls. “I had a new sense of pride, I guess, to tell people about the house, invite them over, and not be ashamed of friends seeing where I lived.”

IF I HAD A HAMMER. Copyright © 2009 by David Rubel. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA