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Young Adult Fiction Canada

Big Water

by (author) Andrea Curtis

Orca Book Publishers
Initial publish date
Mar 2018
Canada, Survival Stories, Siblings
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2018
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Mar 2018
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 12
  • Grade: 8 to 12
  • Reading age: 12


Seventeen-year-old Christina McBurney has led a sheltered life. But when her twin brother, Jonathan, dies of consumption, Christina, unwilling to be farmed out as a nursemaid or teacher, runs away from home and her destiny. In Owen Sound she boards the Asia, a steamship that transports passengers and freight throughout the Great Lakes. She doesn't really have a plan other than to get to Sault Ste. Marie. She'll figure things out once she's settled.

But a violent storm suddenly rises on Georgian Bay, and the overloaded and top-heavy steamship begins to sink. Christina is tossed overboard. Pulled to safety just before she loses consciousness, she finds herself on a lifeboat, surrounded by a number of bedraggled and terrified passengers and crew. One by one they succumb to their injuries, until only Christina and a brooding young man named Daniel are left alive.

The usual rules of society no longer apply—Daniel and Christina must now work together as equals to survive.

Big Water is a fictional account of the real-life story of the only two survivors of the sinking of the SS Asia in 1882.

About the author

Andrea Curtis is an author of books for children and adults. Her children’s non-fiction titles include Eat This!, which received starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal, and What’s for Lunch?, named to VOYA’s Honor list. She has also written the young adult novel Big Water. Her adult books include Into the Blue, winner of the Edna Staebler Award for Creative Nonfiction, and The Stop, winner of the Heritage Toronto Award of Merit and a finalist for the Toronto Book Award. She has also won a number of National Magazine Awards. Andrea lives with her family in Toronto.

Andrea Curtis' profile page


  • Commended, Bank Street College of Education Children's Book Committee Best Children's Books of the Year
  • Commended, CCBC Best Books for Kids & Teens

Editorial Reviews

"This story offers an interesting look at a piece of history and a compelling disaster narrative. The author taps into feelings not just of terror but determination and self-reflection, as Christina fights for her life in an increasingly grim lifeboat. A partnership with her fellow survivor helps move the plot along, and a mystery around his life adds some intriguing historical context…Curtis' novel will make an exciting read for any historical-fiction fan."


&quotFull of suspense and adventure…A memorable story.&quot

The Nerd Daily

"A riveting story of survival, friendship, and the power of the human spirit."

Caroline Pignat, Governor General's Award-winner author

&quotCarries its weight in emotions and suspense for the reader. The novel is a great way to explore the many shipwrecks in Ontario and will engage readers who like historical fiction and survivalist themes.&quot

Canadian Children's Booknews

&quotA gripping tale that deals sensitively with the growing romance between the survivors.&quot

Canadian Teacher

&quotCurtis provides readers rich details of life in Victorian-era Canada…This novel adeptly combines historical fiction with a heavy dose of adventure and even some romance. A must-buy for where Victorian-era historical fiction or survivor tales are popular.&quot

School Library Journal

"Curtis has managed to engage the complex subject matters of mortality and grief in a surprisingly accessible and appropriate manner for young readers. Her philosophical observations on the topic manage to provoke thought and lend themselves well to the profundity of the historical event and the fictional representation. Curtis also throws in allusions to the poems 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner' and 'Kublai Khan' by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, again demonstrating the intelligence behind this book, and its homage to romanticism and human virtue. Big Water is an excellent read for young readers and adults alike."

Resource Links

"Curtis' choice of the present tense brings immediacy, allowing readers to feel that they are going through the ordeal hand in hand with Christina. Presenting the story through Christina's stream-of-consciousness brings the story 'up close and personal' and allows readers to share Christina's thoughts, fears and memories as they occur to her. Recommended."

CM Magazine

"Big Water is a gripping adventure…Curtis manages to convey the horror of the experience in a believable way, but without being overly morbid…News accounts at the time tended to focus on the boy's story rather than that of the girl. Curtis, by contrast, gives the heroine her due."

Quill & Quire

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