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Navigating Early Paperback – December 23, 2014
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Amazon Best Books of the Month January 2013: In her first book since the Newbery Medal winner, Moon Over Manifest, Clare Vanderpool delivers another contender in Navigating Early. Jack and Early, outsiders at their boarding school in Maine, form a friendship that sets them on an epic quest across land, sea, and the depths of their own hearts looking for Pi—the young seeker whose tale Early reads in the numbers following 3.14, convinced that he is lost. On their adventure they find pirates, a ferocious black bear, and finally, resolution and connection in the aftermath of a haunting loss. Vanderpool works magic in this multilayered novel of two stories —that of the boys, and that of Pi--and they dovetail beautifully throughout, culminating in an incredibly touching and gratifying ending. --Seira Wilson --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
*Starred Review* When Jack Baker’s mother dies, his father deposits him in the Morton Hill Academy for Boys in Maine, far from the only home he has ever known—Kansas. Alone and lonely, Jack befriends Early Auden, a strange, legendary boy who understands all manner of unknowable things, from the necessity of listening to Billie Holiday on rainy days to the secrets embedded in patterns of jelly beans. Most important, Early believes the unwinding digits in the calculation of pi hold a connection to his revered older brother, lost in the war. Jack and Early set out on a mysterious journey, following Pi’s story, tracking a great black bear along the Appalachian Trail, and searching for reconciliation neither knows he seeks. Along the way, they encounter a collection of characters, all of them wound up in Early’s eerily prescient Pi yarn. Newbery Medal–winning author Vanderpool’s sharp, honest narrative, sparkling with the stars of the night sky, pieces together an elaborate, layered plot with precision, weaving multiple threads into a careful, tidy conclusion perfectly suited for those, like Jack and Early, who want to believe. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Vanderpool took home the big Newbery prize for Moon Over Manifest (2010), making this publication—which includes a national author tour—a publishing event. Grades 5-8. --Thom Barthelmess --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
This book is so intriguing. It sucked me in early and for the first third I totally bought into it. Here's a 13 year old boy, Jack, from Kansas, who has just lost his Mother and his navy Dad he barely knows now sends him to Morton Hill Academy (all boys school) -- so he virtually loses his Dad, too. The school is in Maine so how does a young boy from Kansas fit in?
As this story began, I was getting all ready for bullying and negative experiences for Jack but none of that ever, ever happened. He's looked on as different for sure but he's allowed in to make his own mistakes just as all the other boys do. I was grateful for this. Jack connects with a classmate, an odd kid named Early, who seems to have free rein in the school (chooses to live in the basement and goes to classes if he chooses to).
Then it started to get weird when Jack and Early start their canoe venture. I was concerned for a bit that this book was becoming absurd; but, it quickly became just phenomenal. This is a very quality book and DEEP. I've told my daughter to please read this book, too, so she can discuss it with her son. There is depth to this book that would provide many quality discussions. No vulgarities, no sexual innuendos, no bullying, just heart warming depth. Please read this book -- it is great for adults, too. I cried.
His first question is there a sequel??!! Going to get him the author's earlier book.
Like MANIFEST, NAVIGATING EARLY is an alienated adolescent's quest to discover a close family member which ends in discovery of self and place. In this book we meet narrator Jack Baker, suddenly uprooted from his life with his mother in Kansas to life in a New England boys' prep school following his mother's death. Being a land-locked Midwesterner, Jack struggles to fit in with the maritime life at his school, but someone else fits in even less well. From our modern perspective, Early Auden might get labeled as autistic, or at least Asperger's. But in his time, and given his father's position at the school before his death, Early is just the odd kid who lives in the custodian's room and attends classes (or doesn't) as he pleases.
But Early sees things in the world that no one else does and believes impossible things. Like that great bear loose in the woods. And the story of Pi, which most of us know as roughly 3.14, but which for Early is a living boy, struggling through his own life quest. And the thoroughly ridiculous notion that "the Fish" - school hero killed in the war - is still alive and living in the woods of Maine. Jack, both feet firmly planted in reality, is bemused, mystified and utterly exasperated by Early, yet oddly drawn to him. Somehow, against his every rational thought, after his father bails on him for parents' day, Jack finds himself accompanying Early on this quest to prove that Pi doesn't end, the bear does exist and Fisher is still alive. "Absurd," you might think to yourself as you set off with this unlikely pair on their Odyssey. "Of course," you'll think as you come to the completely understandable - indeed, the only possible, if baffling - conclusion.
Trying to explain the events of this Odyssey would cause more confusion than clarity, not to mention robbing you of the pleasure of sailing (or rowing, as the case may be) through this book yourself. Just trust in the currents of the book and enjoy the ride. You will meet unforgettable characters and make profound discoveries of your own.
This book is written for - and can certainly be appreciated by - middle grade level readers. But don't let that deter you from reading it yourself. The book works on many different levels - the actual plotline; the metaphorical; the cultural, historical and literary. There is treasure here for all ages. In fact, this is one of those books you could read several times and find something new each time. Buy it for your kids, read it for yourself.