With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I thought it was the perfect time to share this book. This isn't a "flashy" title, and adults may find the plot predictable, but it captures the spirit of the season perfectly.
Title: The Can Man
Author: Laura E. Williams
Illustrator: Craig Orback
Publisher: Lee & Low, 2010
Theme: Charity and generosity, Homeless people
Opening line: "The homeless man slowly pushed his battered shopping cart down the sidewalk. At the corner, he stopped and poked through the garbage with a long stick."
Synopsis: A boy who wants a skateboard sees a homeless man collecting cans and realizes that there is money to be made by taking cans to the recycling center.
Why I like this book: I'm a big fan of recycling, so that part of the plot is an instant winner with me. I also think the boy in this story is a great role model for kids. The illustrator chose to paint a biracial family, which is also a nice choice. I think the cityscape he paints is cleaner than most I've been to (!), but otherwise the story feels very realistic. Kids want things that they can't always afford, and it's nice to see the main character taking the initiative to earn some money himself. The ripple effect of the boy's actions at the very end are a nice bonus. (I don't want to give the ending away!) When I picked up the book, I didn't realize all of the awards it had won.
Activities/Resources: While the author doesn't have teaching materials available for this book, there is a great interview with Mr. Orback and Ms. Williams on the Lee & Low website that discusses The Can Man. I learned there that the man in the sporting goods store is a self-portrait of the artist!
The internet has many sources of information about homelessness. The link to one site that gathered a number of child-appropriate lesson plans and activities is Durham Opening Doors Homeless Prevention & Services in Durham, North Carolina.
This time of year there are many organizations collecting canned goods or looking for volunteers to purchase holiday gifts for the less fortunate. Making this a family activity is a worthwhile experience.
Start a gratitude bowl. During the week leading up to Thanksgiving every day each member of the family can write down something they were thankful for (or dictate it to someone who can write for them). At Thanksgiving dinner, take turns reaching into the bowl and reading the papers out loud.
This review is part of PPBF (perfect
picture book Friday) where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. Along
with tons of writing wisdom, she keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect
Picture Books. #PPBF
Wishing you the joy of home and friends and family this Thanksgiving.