I Am Not a Tin Can by Barroux. Kids Can Press, 2022. 9781525305542
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3.5
Format: Hardcover picture book
What did you like about the book? A charismatic robot and a little boy argue over the nature of existence and eventually become pals in this sweet and simple story. Told entirely through dialog between the two characters, Number 808 asks if he and the boy can be friends, to which the child replies: “I don’t think so. You are a tin can.” The robot (almost twice as tall as the boy and made from a stacked array of simple blue and orange shapes) takes mild offense and begins to point out all the qualities that make him NOT just a can: he’s fun to argue with, he can play music, he can do math, make a cake, and give hugs. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to have a heart. No problem; with the friendship already blossoming, the little boy grabs a paint brush and draws one on his new buddy’s chest. “I feel warm”, says the robot, to which the boy replies, “I think you’re happy…It’s the feeling you get when you make a new friend.” The spare but representational illustrations use watercolor with pen-and-ink accents with the friends’ conversation enclosed in easy-to-follow talk bubbles. The boy presents as White.
Anything you didn’t like about it? This may be a translation by the author from French – I couldn’t say for sure – but Barroux was born in France and lives in Canada. The language is serviceable but a bit stiff, lacking the casual realistic back-and-forth banter of Mo Willems.
To whom would you recommend this book? This would be a good addition to friendship books or as a readaloud for grades K-2. I liked the clear emphasis on not judging others on the basis of appearance or preconceived notions. A read alike for The Adventures of Beekle by Dan Santat or Boy + Bot by Ame Dyckman.
Who should buy this book? Elementary and public libraries
Where would you shelve it? Picture books
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA
Date of review: October 23, 2022