Artist Jim LaMarche builds a book -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Artist Jim LaMarche builds a book

Written by David Rubel in collaboration with Habitat and illustrated by Jim LaMarche, The Carpenter’s Gift is the celebratory, enduring tale of a boy named Henry who dreams of having a better place to live and then grows up to help make that happen for others.

Hear from the artist himself as he puts the finishing brushstrokes on The Carpenter’s Gift.





The Colors of The Carpenter’s Gift

I was born in Wisconsin. Small town, knew everybody.

My father was a biologist, so he and my mother both loved being outdoors. We lived right on the edge of this small town.

I think there is a lot of that place in my work. There’s something really beautiful to me — and I remember it as a kid — seeing the snow and the shadows of the snow and the color of the bare trees. And there’s this color that is there. It’s this lavender gray. And then there would be this startling blue in the snow. I think that sense of color has stayed with me.

Building and Books

I love to see ideas go all the way to a solid thing that I can hold in my hand. I worked in east Palo Alto for a carpenter when I first moved West. I was pretty untrained, but I learned a few things.

The parallel between building and what I do in children’s books, it’s as close as it gets. You start with your concept, on a napkin like so many good ideas start, and you follow it through all the way through the construction of this thing.

You block it out — it’s almost like building these little rooms. And then you move to a final set of blueprints, a final book that you use as your guide. You start construction, and you build this thing.

Memories and Moments

When you see a moment that is a very human moment, you recognize it as universal. It connects with people. If I could do anything well, that would be my wish, that I could connect on that level.

I want a book that doesn’t look like a technique, a style so much as just getting to those really important truths that I think we all know — heartbreak and parenting and family.

It’s not about me as the illustrator. It’s about the story. Each little book is a beginning world and the end of the world within itself. It’s a poem. It doesn’t have to be any more than that, I think.

LaMarche at work in his studio. To read more of LaMarche’s observations, don’t miss the December issue of Habitat World.

Illustrations from The Carpenter's Gift by David Rubel, copyright ©2011 by Jim LaMarche. Reprinted by permission of Random House Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, a division of Random House Inc.