The Carpenter’s Gift Blog Tour: Interview: Jim LaMarche

I love waking up on a day where I get a chance to celebrate children’s literature with Mr. Johnny Schu and the Nerdy Book Club. Today is one of those days.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to check out The Carpenter’s Gift, I highly recommend that you run to the library and check out a copy of this inspiring book.

As part of today’s trifecta Mr. Schu interviews author David Rubel.

Be sure to check out The Carpenter’s Gift author David Rubel’s Nerdy Book Club post.

Last week I asked my students if they would be interested in interviewing illustrator Jim LaMarche about his work on The Carpenter’s Gift. They were super excited to do so, and I think their questions are prettying stinking fantastic.

My students questions are in red and Jim’s answers in appear in black.

Have you ever been to Rockefeller Center? Have you ever seen the tree in real life?

I was in New York briefly a few years ago and unfortunately didn’t get to Rockefeller Center. I’ve only seen the tree in pictures and TV. I would love to see the lighting of the tree.

When you were drawing Henry, did you base it off of someone you knew?

Yes, the model I used for young Henry is a boy that had been a student in my wife Toni’s classroom. I looked at old photos and read stories from that time to learn about the clothes people wore and their living conditions. By an amazing coincidence in 1931 when the story begins my father was the exact age as the young Henry. I talked with my dad to get information about what it was like for him growing up during the Depression. I used my dad’s recollections to outfit Henry and get the right look and feel in my illustrations.

Did you ever live like Henry did in the book?

No, my family was never poor. But every summer I would spend time at my grandparent’s cabin in northern Wisconsin. It was a very small cabin on a lake. There wasn’t a TV or indoor plumbing. My grandmother cooked the fish we caught and baked her blueberry pies using ba wood burning stove. My brother and I spent our time fishing and reading. I loved being there.

Did you ever have something special like Henry had with the pinecone? Did you ever have a special moment like Henry did?

I was very lucky to have had such a wonderful time growing up. I had many special moments as a boy. I spent a lot of time outside swimming and fishing and skating and skiing and hiking and biking and camping and tramping through the woods. I did find an old raft on a little pond when I was a young boy. That raft became the idea for a book I did called THE RAFT.

Did you ever have huge trees growing in your yard?

My mother still lives in the house I grew up in. Some of the big old trees have died but the trees that I used to be able to jump over as a boy are now the old giants.

How many drafts did you draw of the book?

I start by making hundreds of fast, tiny pictures called “thumb-nail” drawings. These help me get my many ideas down on paper. Then I use the best of those to develop a rough sketch for each page. I then make up a book out of those sketches. This sketchbook is the same size and the same layout as I want the final book to be. When the editor and art director have seen all my ideas and are happy with them I then, finally, draw and paint the final art.

Have you ever lived in New York?

I have never lived in New York, although the area where I grew up in Wisconsin looks a lot like the countryside I drew for the story.

How long did it take for you to draw the pictures?

It took about 7 or 8 months for me to complete the art for this story.

How were you able to vision what the pictures would look like? How did you decide what you wanted the pictures to look like based off the author’s words?

A wonderful thing about my studio is it is only a block from my public library. I spend a lot of time in the stacks looking up books about the subjects I illustrate. I also have been gathering pictures and stories for 30 years. When I see something I like in a magazine I file it away for another time. I have files on animals, birds, cottages and lakes. I have pictures of interesting people doing interesting things. I have stacks of files and in each file are hundreds of pictures. The hard part is filing it all away so I can find it when I need it.


A big thanks to Jim LaMarche for answering my students questions.

Thank you Random House for providing the images.

Blog Tour

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012:

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012:

Friday, November 23rd, 2012: The Book Maven’s Haven

Saturday, November 24th, 2012:

Sunday, November 25th, 2012: {Eat the Book}

Monday, November 26th, 2012: Maestra Amanda’s Boohkshelf

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012:

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012


3 thoughts on “The Carpenter’s Gift Blog Tour: Interview: Jim LaMarche

  1. I love this!  Thanks for sharing!   Marjie Podzielinski

    Librarian-Coulson Tough School 11660 Crane Brook Drive The Woodlands, TX 77382

    832.656.7300 CELL



  2. I am a big fan of Jim Lamarche!
    I couldn’t move my eyes away from his book, The Elves and the Shoemaker, which become the first one in my Lamarche collection. It has special meaning to me. I also love his “Albert.” I recently added this one into my collections as well!! Please let me know how I can write to him?! I’d like to tell him I love his works!


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