Book Review: The Can Man

The Can Man book cover

Image Credit: Craig Orbach, LEE and LOW Books

A reader commented to me recently about having difficulty finding books that feature Asian-Black (aka “Blasian”) mixed-race families. The Can Man by Laura E. Williams and illustrated by Craig Orback (LEE and LOW ) is a children’s picture book with such a family. While the author Williams is half Korean and half Caucasian, and the Orbach’s illustrations clearly depict the characters as a mixed race family, the storyline does not focus on ethnic issues. Instead, The Can Man is a tale of compassion, thankfulness, and how easily one’s circumstances could change.

Lately, the local TV station and newspapers have been showing stories about homeless camping out — literally in tents — along the creek banks right in the middle of our city.

I did some work at a Catholic charity recently, where there was a steady flow of people coming in to pick up food baskets and warm clothes.

Perhaps you or your spouse has been laid off, or perhaps your kids have questions about why they see Occupy Wall Street protesters on the news each night.

Aimed at second or third grade reading level, this picture book is a great way to start discussions among elementary school aged-kids. The main character, Tim, wishes he had a skateboard like his friend’s. After seeing a homeless man dig through trash cans in search of recycling, Tim wonders whether he might also be able to earn some money doing the same thing. The story is presents homelessness and unemployment in a very frank way, balanced with a hopeful — yet decidedly non-treacly — message about generosity.

The Can Man is definitely a book to share with your kids as we head toward Thanksgiving.

You can read more about the making of The Can Man at the LEE and LOW website.


Shop Indie Bookstores

A copy of  The Can Man was provided to me by LEE and LOW Books, but the opinions expressed are all my own.


  1. says

    grace, thanks for keeping an eye out for blasian stories. just curious, who are the black-asian characters? because if this book is about an asian kid and a black homeless guy — then my hackles are going up. i know that’s not fair when i haven’t read the story. but what do you think? you’ve read the book. do the characters play to stereotypes?

    • says

      Good question, Betty. I’d be irked if the book played to racial stereotypes, too. Actually, in the book, the mom and dad are Asian and Black. The main character is mixed-race.

      And the homeless guy is White.

  2. says

    I felt the same. It was nice to see a mixed race family but the book was more about the lesson the young boy learned. Which is how life should be right? Not so much about what race our families are but what lesson are being taught. :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *