The Can Man by Laura E. Williams, illustrated by Craig Orback
Tim wants a skateboard for his birthday but his family can’t afford to buy him one right now. So when Tim sees the Can Man collecting cans to earn money, Tim realizes that he can do that to earn money for his skateboard. Tim gathers cans with great energy, finally getting seven bags which should be more than enough for his skateboard. On the final day he can collect cans, it is pouring rain. The Can Man is out with his grocery cart collecting too, though he admits to Tim that he hasn’t found many cans lately. Time explains that he is going to use the can money for a skateboard. When he asks the Can Man what he’s collecting for, he learns that he needs the money for a warm coat. The Can Man helps Tim bring the bags of cans to the redemption center. After redeeming the cans for money though, Tim sees the Can Man walking away and knows just what he should do. He runs outside and gives the Can Man all of the money he made. On his birthday, Tim finds a package outside his door. Inside is a skateboard. Not a brand new one, but one that will work just fine and even has a fresh coat of paint, thanks to the Can Man.
Williams has taken what could have been a didactic moral tale and turned it instead into a fresh story about kindness and community. Her text has a warmth to it that makes the story relatable, bringing the issue of homelessness and poverty directly into a child-eye view. Orback’s illustrations reflect the same honesty as the words. His paintings glow with a warm light and offer a realistic view of the neighborhood the story is set in.
Bravo for a book that brings social concerns to children without lecturing! Appropriate for ages 4-8.
Reviewed from copy received from Lee & Low Books.