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Ebb & Flow by Heather Smith

April 7, 2018


I have a tendency to give everything I read high marks simply because I love to read, however, I rarely assign 4 of 4. I must admit the artistry of poetic form in this book has allowed Heather Smith to handle the ugliest of marginalized situations for the young child is just simply unquestionably wonderful and gentle. This book slowly addresses one summer in the life of a child whose life has been shattered by the incarceration of his father, revealing his father’s drunk driving that caused the death of a mother and child and severed the parental relationships with his biological mother too, for she hasn’t recovered from the experience to nurture her son back to he

The author is very careful to address the core issue that is at the heart of the problems facing the main character Jett, which is the loss of the father-son bond. So hurt is he by his father’s incarceration that he hasn’t yet cried over the loss of his father from the family nor can Jett be moved to go see his dad who is in jail in the town of his birth. When Jett is sent to his grandmother for the summer in New Foundland, his acting out signaled the internal conflicts churning within. Choosing to attach himself to everything that he can which he counts as broken, he makes friends with the socially rejected Junior Dawson, town bully, town thief, town lier…you name it this child acted out on it, due to a revealed daily abuse by his father. Junior is also living in a home of which he shares with his uncle/brother Alf who is an adult who suffers mental illness.

Having to live off food samples because no one supplies meals for him at home, Junior bitterly resents Alf because they share the same mother due and he feels their mother left Alf a fortune of money before abandoned him to the abusive behavior of his aunt and father. When Junior breaks into the safe box, it is discovered that the money is Monopoly money. His anger leads to him beating up Alf and running away, as Jeff, who was pulled into his plan, stands back in horror witnessing the attack and in turn gets initially accused of the assault.

An eloquent clean read that covers issues of elder abuse, extreme physical abuse by a biological parent, dysfunctional settings threatening child-safety, living w/adult mental illness, death, parental incarceration, and feelings of abandonment/disengagement is masterfully handled for the younger reader from grades 4 through 6. The one irritating moment was when Junior confessed his mistreatment by the adults responsible for him and the callous response of the classroom teacher who responded threatening him with removal from the home he wanted removal from.  He was so not in putting the needs of the student’s well-being first, an attitude I was never exposed to in my pre-service or in-service positions as a licensed classroom elementary or middle school teachers.  I am hoping this was added for fictional purposes and would hate to think this was based on a consistant truth in educators from one N. A. country to the other.

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