Title: The Can Man
Author: Laura E. Williams
Illustrator: Craig Orback
Publisher: Lee & Low Books
Concepts: unemployment, homelessness, savings, wants versus needs, competition
Review: Tim’s mother is quick to remind him that the Can Man ─ the homeless man who collects used aluminum cans from around town and redeems them for money ─ has a name and an identity. Mr. Peters, who used to live in their apartment building, had lost his job at the auto body shop when it went out of business and had not managed to find new work.
Tim liked the idea of redeeming cans when he himself wanted a quick way to earn what he thought was easy money to save for a new skateboard. After all, Tim really deserved a new skateboard, didn’t he? Although Tim thought that he would only be competing with Mr. Peters for cans for a couple of weeks, he did not realize how difficult it would be to rationalize his scheme when he learned that Mr. Peters had been saving up for a badly-needed winter coat.
While few children’s books broach the topic of homelessness, this book takes on the topic from a child’s perspective and does so with dignity and grace. Along the way come additional lessons about unemployment, savings, and wants versus needs. These valuable lessons, wrapped into an interesting story line, make The Can Man a noteworthy addition to the literature.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children