Ebb & Flow

Heather Smith's free-verse middle-grade book tells the story of a boy with a shameful secret.

Heather Smith

"One summer, after a long plane ride and a rotten bad year, I went to Grandma Jo's. It was my mother's idea. 'Jett, what you need is a change of scenery.' I think she needed a change of scenery, too. One without me. Because that rotten bad year was my fault." 

Thus begins the poignant story, told in free verse, of 11-year-old Jett. Last year, Jett and his mother had moved to a new town for a fresh start after his father went to jail. But Jett soon learned that fresh starts aren't all they're cracked up to be. When he befriended a boy with a difficult home life, Jett found himself in a cycle of bad decisions that culminated in the betrayal of a friend — a shameful secret he still hasn't forgiven himself for. Will a summer spent with his unconventional grandmother help Jett find his way to redemption?

Writing in artfully crafted free-verse vignettes, Heather Smith uses a deceptively simple style to tell a powerful and emotionally charged story. The engaging narrative and the mystery of Jett's secret keep the pages turning and will appeal to both reluctant and avid readers. This captivating book offers a terrific opportunity for classroom discussions about the many ways to tell a story and how a small number of carefully chosen words can have a huge impact. It also showcases the positive character traits of empathy, resilience, courage and responsibility. (From Kids Can Press)

Ebb & Flow was a finalist for the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — text.

Ebb & Flow won the 2019 TD Canadian Children's Literature Award, a $50,000 prize that recognizes the best Canadian children's book of the year.

From the book

I was flipping,
and flopping,
churned up
like the rough sea


There it was.
The place I was taken from
when Dad went to jail.

From Ebb & Flow by Heather Smith ©2018. Published by Kids Can Press.

Why Heather Smith wrote Ebb & Flow

"The idea for Ebb & Flow came during a summer visit to Newfoundland. I was on the beach and I found a piece of sea glass. It was so pretty and I wondered how was it formed, from starting off as a piece of broken glass that someone threw in the ocean. It spent so much time in there getting churned around, and eventually it became this beautiful piece of glass.

We shouldn't underestimate our readers.- Heather Smith

"I thought it was a beautiful metaphor for a child going through something. It might be that the hard times they're going through is making them stronger and they might come out better at the end for it. I wanted tell a simple story about a child finding a piece of sea glass.

"When I started to write Ebb & Flow, I knew that I wanted this main character, 11-year-old Jett, to have made a terrible mistake that he has to deal with. I think middle-grade readers can handle that. Kids might be shocked by what Jett does in the book, but I think that we shouldn't underestimate our readers. They can read that story.

"When writing I'm not trying to capture today's youth. I don't want to date the book. I want this

Read more in her interview with CBC Books.

Other books by Heather Smith