Children’s Book Reviews
Children's Book Reviews: Ebb and Flow
Publish April 25, 2018
Ebb and Flow, by Waterloo author Heather Smith, is a compelling, authentic novel that explores guilt, remorse, and ultimately, forgiveness. After a “rotten bad year”, 11-year-old Jett is sent to stay with his grandmother in Newfoundland for the summer. His “cotton candy granny” (so nicknamed for her brightly painted house, and dyed hair to match) offers unconditional love and support at a time when the young boy needs it the most. Told in free verse, Jett’s personal story unfolds through flashbacks that relay his father’s incarceration, his friendship with a troubled bully, and his own cruel actions toward someone vulnerable. With Grandma Jo’s quiet wisdom and steadfast guidance, Jett begins to work through his shame and other complicated emotions.
The intimate, first-person narration makes readers feel as if Jett is confiding his deepest secrets directly to them. Poetic word choices and single-sentence contemplations are straight from the heart: “Turns out/ it’s not just daylight/that makes dreams/only dreams.” As in Heather Smith’s previous works, Baygirl (Orca, 2013), and The Agony of Bun O’Keefe (Penguin Random House, 2017), this novel also packs an emotional wallop. The complex, memorable characters in this outstanding middle-grade novel will linger in readers’ minds long after the last page is turned.
Linda Ludke is a librarian at London Public Library. Her reviews have appeared in Quill and Quire, School Library Journal and CM: Canadian Review of Materials. When she’s not reading and writing she also loves searching for vintage treasures.
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