Waterloo author to receive TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award

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Local author Heather Smith has been nominated for the prestigious TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award, one of the nation’s top literary prizes, for her most recent verse novel Ebb & Flow.

Smith, originally from Newfoundland, is a Waterloo-based author who writes children’s picture books and young adult literature.

“I had always been a fan of picture books, I have my own little picture book collection at home. I think they’re amazing,” Smith said. “And I was just drawn to writing picture book stories.”

“I never really thought about writing for another audience, it just felt natural to me to write for young people.”

Smith has previously been a nominee and winner of multiple of awards for Ebb & Flow, including the 2018 BMO Winterset Award, 2018 Governor General’s Literary Award and the 2019 USBBY Outstanding International Book Selection.

“This is a big one for me,” said Smith. “I’m well-aware of the significance of this particular award. In fact, I’ve often gone to these award ceremonies in the past…I’ve been an aspiring writer sitting in the audience of this very event. It feels a little bit surreal that this year I’m going to be nominated, that I’m going to be one of the ones that it is up for this award.”

I never really thought about writing for another audience, it just felt natural to me to write for young people.

— Heather Smith

The awards will be presented on Oct. 15 at the TD Book Awards.

Ebb & Flow is a free verse picture book which tells the story of a young boy, Jett, who returns to the coast to visit his grandmother after a difficult year in a new town. This turns into a period of reflection for Jett, who makes an effort to put his past memories in order in a way which will make sense of his mistakes, like examining pieces of sea glass and how they came to be.

Smith’s inspiration for Ebb & Flow comes from a moment during a visit to Newfoundland in the summer.

“I found a piece of sea glass on the beach in Newfoundland,” said Smith. “It was just so pretty, and smooth and beautiful. It was a gem basically.”

I’m a very curious person so I started googling sea glass and finding out how it comes about. And when I found out that it just starts out as a broken bottle, like a beer bottle or any broken bottle, you smash it and you have this sharp shard which is not very nice looking, it would cut you if you held it. It gets thrown in the ocean and spends so much time in there getting churned by the sea that it becomes something smooth and beautiful. It just got me thinking about what a wonderful metaphor that it.”

Smith’s book explores this concept in detail through the main character, telling the story of his own experiences, mistakes, growth and reflection.

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