Today, 5th grade came to the library and I shared The Carpenter's Gift: A Christmas Tale About the Rockefeller Center Tree by David Rubel and illustrated by Jim LaMarche. This is a beautifully illustrated story about Henry, a young boy growing up during the Great Depression. His family struggled to make ends meet, but Henry "didn't complain, because it was nobody's fault."
On Christmas Eve, Henry's dad borrows a truck and takes Henry to cut trees to sell in New York City. The day is a good day, made even better by the people they meet while selling the trees. As Henry enjoys the moment, his dad talks to the men about the hard times they were facing. These new friends come to help Henry and his family and make a lasting impression on Henry, one that stays with him through his life.
The story comes full circle, and reminds us that "the best presents are the ones you don't expect." The best gift for me was learning that the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is milled and used by Habitat for Humanity each year to build a home in the area from which the tree came. I loved reading the information about how the trees are found, as well as the additional information on Habitat for Humanity.
Many of my 5th graders were unfamiliar with Habitat for Humanity, so this book created an opportunity for learning and discussing. I found this short video on how the tree is milled, which was very interesting for the students: Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Video
This book would make a wonderful addition to a holiday book collection!