The Can Caravan

The Can Caravan
Co-Authors / Illustrators
  • Cindy Kang
Publisher Name
child’s play
Age Range
Release Date
August 01, 2022
When Janie’s neighbor Mrs Tolen goes into hospital with a broken hip, it looks as though she will have to move out of her old caravan and into a house. Janie is desperate to help, but all seems lost until her school visits a local recycling plant. All it takes from there is imagination, a supportive community, and lots and lots of hard work to transform Mrs Tolen’s old caravan into a safe and secure new home! The latest picture book by renowned Romani storyteller Richard O’Neill celebrates the traditional Traveller virtues of resilience, adaptability, loyalty and independence.

Editor review

1 review
Romani culture and recycling
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Janie and her family of Travelers live in a caravan. Their neighbor, and her grandfather's oldest friend, Mrs. Tolen, is very supportive of Janie, and shares story about when she was an engineer. After Mrs. Tolen falls and ends up in the hospital, her caravan is inspected and found in need of many repairs. Janie wants to help, but Mrs. Tolen warns her against spending any money to fix up the old trailer; she'll go live somewhere else after she heals. When her class visits an aluminum can recycling facitly, Janie gets a great idea-- maybe her neighbors and friends could help collect cans and work together to use their skills to renovate Mrs. Tolen's caravan! With her grandfather and mother supervising, the caravan is stripped down, then built back up to be a warm and welcoming home that is 100 perrcent up to code. Inspectors make sure it's okay, and allow Janie and her network of helpers to surprise Mrs. Tolen. Mrs. Tolen is glad to be able to stay in her home, and Janie is glad to have her friend still nearby.
Good Points
Readers in the US may not be as familiar with Romani culture in the UK, but this is a great introduction. Early on in the book, there is a glossary of some Romani terms that are used. We learn that Travellers (Romani) have been recycling for century, and see how their communities work together to help each other.

I loved the focus on recycling, and the end of the book has a two page spread detailing the process by which aluminum cans are recyled. I hadn't thought about the fact that the ink would need to be removed; that's a good reason for beverage manufacturers to limit the amount of colors on their cans!

I can't say that I've seen any picture book (or even middle grade, for that matter) coverage of Romani culture, and I don't know if there are many Travellers in the US. I've not seen any coverage in the news in my area, and haven't had any students with this cultural background. It was great to learn a little bit about Janie and her family. There are a growing number of picture books about environmental and recycling issues, so this is a great addition to books like Smith's My Must-Have Mom, Pham-Bournwens DIY Afternoon: Recycling, and Lloyd's It's Up to Us.
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