________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 39. . . .June 8, 2018


Ebb & Flow.

Heather Smith.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2018.
227 pp., hardcover, $17.99.
ISBN 978-1-77138-838-2.

Grades 5-10 / Ages 10-15.

Review by Mary Thomas.

*** /4



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?
That was my fault.
I wondered if a summer spent
in a little wooden house
on a rocky eastern shore
would help us forget that.

As the plane flew across
the blue-green ocean,
I crossed my fingers
and hoped.


Thus begins the tale of Jett's redemptive summer after that "rotten bad year" (this poem is not the only one in which this phrase is used) as the 12-year-old goes to stay with his cotton-candy grandma whose pink hair -- that matches her house -- he finds has changed to blue. So has the house.

      Through a series of short prose poems, readers learn the details of just how "rotten bad" both the year and Jett had been. Mostly the story is about mistakes: his father's, his own, his friend's; and whether the mistakes can be atoned for, forgiven, wiped out, or if they will be left forever, hanging albatross-like around his neck. Just because Jett feels betrayed, was it right to hurt someone else?

      Grandma is Jett's catalyst for change. It is she who doesn't pry, but listens; doesn't judge, but hugs; insists on his participation, or at least presence, when she visits some of the down-and-outs of the village, even though she knows that it is the betrayal of one such person that is haunting Jett. Grandma therapy goes on for the entire summer, slow, steady, and loving, until

As the plane took off,
I pictured his face --
sweet amd round and covered in stubble.
I couldn't wait to see him.
I'd say
Guess what, Alf? Jett Plane
was on a jet plane
and he'd laugh,
a big ha ha ha,
and the two of us
would be friends again,
the big, little man

and me.

     Everyone should be so lucky as to have a grandma like Jett's!

      Ebb and Flow is a book for readers who like to think. It is also one that they will like to read and perhaps re-read partly because of its format. The short poems are very accessible, only one to a page, with lots of white space. Lots of pondering space. It's not for those who want action of the whizz, bang, pow variety -- but the ideas stay with you. Adults will enjoy it, too, even though as a role model grandma takes a bit of living-up to.


Mary Thomas lives and works (from time to time) in Winnipeg, and is a grandmother, but not as good a one as Jett's.

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