Notable for his works of fiction and nonfiction for young adults, Smith is particularly well known for his I,Q and Marty & Grace series. His 2007 children's novel, Peak, won a National Outdoor Book Award.
After graduating from Portland State University, he worked for two decades as as a zookeeper in Oregon and Washington. He published his first non-fiction work, Sea Otter Rescue, in 1990, and his debut novel, Thunder Cave, in 1997.
His book Journey of the Red Wolf was a 1996 recipient of the Oregon Book Award.
Born and raised in Portland, Oregon, he later settled in Tualatin, Oregon, with his wife Marie.
He is a contemporary of fellow young adult author and Oregon native April Henry.