Thursday, December 8, 2011

2. The Carpenter's Gift

Written by David Rubel
Illustrated by Jim LaMarche
Random House, 2011
$17.99, ages 4-8, 44 pages

A wish made on a paper star one chilly Christmas Eve long ago leads to a magical sequence of events, in this beautifully illustrated picture book.

Recalling back to childhood, an aging carpenter tells of how an act of kindness in 1931 inspired him late in life to pay that generosity forward.

That year, the carpenter, then a boy named Henry, and his parents were at their lowest. His father had lost his job, and their house had deteriorated into a drafty shack.

It was the Depression and as with many families, jobs were sparse and people had to eke out a living however they could.

So the night before Christmas, Henry and his father cut down trees in the woods, then drove an hour to New York City to try to sell them. 

Pulling off a city street, they saw a construction crew and asked if they could share their lot to sell the trees.

The crew could see from their worn faces and clothes that Henry and his father were down on their luck, and welcomed them in.

Soon, the workers were also hurrying over to help unload trees, unaware that the next thing they would unload would change Henry's life forever.

At the end of the day, with a good trickle of sales behind them, Henry's father showed his gratitude in the best way he could. He offered the workers their tallest tree to set out on the lot.

Together, Henry and his father, and the crew, cobbled together things to decorate it with, cranberries, empty tin cans and newspaper star that Henry folded.

Before hanging up the star, Henry closed his eyes and made a wish that his family would one day have a warm house to live in.

Just as he opened them, he noticed a pine cone from the tree on the ground and slipped it into his pocket.

That night, Henry and his father drove home, their hearts brimming with hope. Little did they know, Henry's private wish had floated into the thoughts of the crew.

The next morning, Christmas Day, Henry woke to the toot of horns. The crew had pulled up in their trucks and the beds were loaded down with lumber leftover from their job.

Seeing that Henry's home was in terrible disrepair, the workers proposed that they tear it down and build Henry's family a new one. Within a week, the workers had framed in the walls and begun to build the roof.

When the final nails went in, one of the workers gave Henry his old claw hammer so he could keep up any repairs came up. For Henry, the hammer became a dear reminder of their kindness.

One moment, these workers were strangers on lot, and within a week, they'd changed his family's life and without knowing it, begun a legacy of giving.

That spring, Henry was wondering how to show his gratitude, and found the pine cone from Christmas Eve in his jacket and decided to plant it beside his new home.

The years slipped by as years do. The seed grew into a tree and Henry grew older, and one day, he returned to his family's home.

Seeing it was in need of repairs, he pulled out his claw hammer and began nailing down wood here and there. Beside him, the tree rose high above the roof, now a green spire piercing the sky.

Then one day an arborist arrived at the house, asking to cut down his spruce for the Rockefeller Center tree.

At first Henry was reluctant. But then the man explained that after the holiday, the tree would be milled and used to build a new home for a family need, and Henry instantly knew what to do. It was time to pay forward a kindness.

LaMarche's closeups of Henry's face show emotion so genuine and sweet, that one look at them and I felt a flush of warmth flow through me.

This is a wonderful story of how one act of compassion can lead to another, and though it is fictional, it feels like it could have happened -- and leaves you wishing it really did.

The story also shares a little-known fact about the Rockefeller tree, that each year its wood is passed on to Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit Christian organization that builds homes for families in need across the world.

No comments:

Post a Comment