Cans for Change: Review by Edward Hudswell

Cans for Change cover

Cans for Change is a middle-grade fiction novel aimed at 8-12 year olds and comes from the creative mind of author Lawrey Goodrick. The intelligent, heartwarming and bizarrely humorous plot follows the misadventures of learner-driver Daniel and his father on their quest through the streets of Brisbane to exchange empty containers for cash. The pair’s journey brings them face-to-face with Police officers, bullies, and packs of rabid recyclers over the course of its 34 pages.

Goodrick constructs the characters with such depth and humour that it is impossible not to identify and sympathise with their actions and respective motivations as the plot develops. Themes of childhood development and identity are presented through the lens of a learner driver attempting to extract a serious driving lesson from his container-obsessed father throughout the book. Questions of conformity and acceptance are also prevalent and are resolved with a maturity and simplicity which separates the book from its contemporaries within the genre.  

As somewhat of an amateur recycler myself, the depictions of container-recycling culture and the eccentric personalities it attracts were expertly constructed. Anyone who has frequented a container collection point will undoubtedly get a chuckle out of the recycling obsession which consumes Daniel’s dad. The odd kinship which exists between recyclers is also spot-on, hilariously executed, and relatable to say the very least. 

Daniel as a narrator makes extensive use of car-related similes that are extremely clever and complement the 1970 XW Ford Falcon which serves as both transportation and plot motivation for the book’s characters. The car, filled to the brim with bags of empty bottles and cans, is painted in such vivid detail that it often feels like a supporting character in its own right. Daniel’s connection with the car is no more evident than in instances where his “face slackens like a torn fanbelt” or he has “lips sealed tight like a head gasket”. These moments are well-crafted and perfectly illustrate Daniel’s mental state at various points in the book.

The story takes place in Brisbane, with cultural references that will delight locals – but are not so heavy-handed as to be off-putting to everybody else. References like “the neon sign at the Brisbane Road chip shop” function as a familiar nod to current and former residents of the river-city. 

Cans for Change is aimed at middle-grade children, aged 8-12, but honestly has such a rich depth of heartfelt humour that it will entertain readers of almost any age. Kids will easily connect with the plight of a would-be learner driver with an eccentric father, while older readers will detect more of the nuance contained within Daniel’s dad’s personality.

You can find this great book at all good bookstores and libraries, or you can purchase directly from Hawkeye here

More information about Lawrey Goodrick here

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