You have to look for the things that connect us all. Find the ways our paths cross, our lives intersect, and our hearts collide,” Jack’s mother told him before she died. Her words will come to have special meaning for readers spellbound by this atmospheric novel set at the end of WWII from Newbery Medalist Vanderpool (Moon over Manifest). After his mother is buried, 13-year-old Jack—a clear-eyed narrator with a great sense of humor, despite his recent heartbreak—is sent to a Maine boarding school, where he meets an eccentric student named Early Auden, who might today be labeled autistic. Early is obsessed with the number pi and believes that Pi is a boy on an epic journey, and in danger. Jack agrees to accompany Early on his quest to rescue Pi, and as the boys head into the wilderness, their adventures have an eerie resemblance to Early’s stories about Pi, as do Jack and Early’s own sad histories. This multilayered, intricately plotted story has a kaleidoscopic effect, blurring the lines between reality and imagination, coincidence and fate. Ages 9–12. Agent: Andrea Cascardi, Transatlantic Literary Agency. (Jan.)
“Just the sort of book that saves lives by igniting a passion for reading.”
The Washington Post, January 1, 2013:
"Clare Vanderpool deftly rows this complex, inventive novel — her most recent since her Newbery-winning 'Moon Over Manifest' — to a tender, surprising and wholly satisfying ending."
The Wall Street Journal, January 18, 2013:
"An emotionally believable and moving work of magical realism."
The Boston Globe, June 22, 2013:
"A beautifully written adventure."
The New York Times, January 13, 2013:
"The hallmark of 'Navigating Early' is abundant adventure...The friendship between Jackie and Early and the Morton Hill Academy episodes overall have the flavor of Wes Anderson's delightful summer camp movie, 'Moonrise Kingdom.'"
Starred Review, School Library Journal, March 2013:
“Readers will find themselves richly rewarded by this satisfying tale.”
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, November 19, 2012:
“This multilayered, intricately plotted story has a kaleidoscopic effect, blurring the lines between reality and imagination, coincidence and fate.”
Starred Review, Booklist, December 15, 2012:
“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.”
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2012:
““Returning to themes she explored so affectingly in Moon Over Manifest, Newbery Medalist Vanderpool delivers another winning picaresque about memories, personal journeys, interconnectedness—and the power of stories.”
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, February 2013:
"This story of a poignant friendship of two heartbroken boys shifts quickly among genres...moving into territory more often claimed by high fantasy quests, heroic epics, wilderness adventures, and even mysteries. The incorporation of these familiar tropes give the book broad and fascinating appeal, and those that trust Early—and Vanderpool—to lead them through the treacherous woods will be pondering and debating the surreal experience for some time to come."
The Horn Book, March/April 2013:
"While the writing is as minutely observant as it was in the author’s Newbery-winning debut, Moon over Manifest, this book has a stronger trajectory, developed by the classic quest structure that emerges when Vanderpool sends the boys into the Maine wilderness."
Returning to themes she explored so affectingly in Moon Over Manifest (2011), Newbery Medalist Vanderpool delivers another winning picaresque about memories, personal journeys, interconnectedness--and the power of stories. Thirteen-year-old Jack enters boarding school in Maine after his mother's death at the end of World War II. He quickly befriends Early Auden, a savant whose extraordinary facility with numbers allows him to "read" a story about "Pi" from the infinite series of digits that follow 3.14. Jack accompanies Early in one of the school crew team's rowing boats on what Jack believes is his friend's fruitless quest to find a great bear allegedly roaming the wilderness--and Early's brother, a legendary figure reportedly killed in battle. En route, Early spins out Pi's evolving saga, and the boys encounter memorable individuals and adventures that uncannily parallel those in the stories. Vanderpool ties all these details, characters, and Jack's growing maturity and self-awareness together masterfully and poignantly, though humor and excitement leaven the weighty issues the author and Jack frequently pose. Some exploits may strain credulity; Jack's self-awareness often seems beyond his years, and there are coincidences that may seem too convenient. It's all of a piece with Vanderpool's craftsmanship. Her tapestry is woven and finished off seamlessly. The ending is very moving, and there's a lovely, last-page surprise that Jack doesn't know but that readers will have been tipped off about. Navigating this stunning novel requires thought and concentration, but it's well worth the effort. (author's note, with questions and answers, list of resources) (Historical fiction. 10-14)
Gr 6–9—When Jack's mother passes away, his military father returns home to pack him up and ship him off to boarding school in Maine. Wading through the emotional trauma of grief and trying to adjust to his new surroundings, Jack feels that he doesn't really fit in anywhere. It is not until he befriends the school's resident outsider that he finds someone who might be able to help him navigate the troubled waters of his future. Early's older brother, Fisher, is a school legend, and the boy refuses to believe that he perished in the war. He sees numbers as having colors and narratives and believes that the story of Pi is also the story that will lead his brother home. Early sets off on an epic quest to find the Great Bear that has been ravaging the countryside as he believes it will lead him to Fisher. When Jack teams up with Early to find a bear, a brother, and an unending number, both boys finally find their way back home. Set just after World War II, this novel, like Vanderpool's Moon Over Manifest (Delacorte, 2010), once again meticulously blends an intricately plotted and layered story line with a fully realized historical backdrop. Interesting characters meander through the boys' adventure, fitting themselves into the pieces of their story as it begins to weave together. Readers will find themselves richly rewarded by this satisfying tale.—Jessica Miller, New Britain Public Library, CT