Excerpt of Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool
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If I'd known what there was to know about Early Auden,
that strangest of boys, I might have been scared off, or at
least kept my distance like all the others. But I was new to
the Morton Hill Academy for Boys, and to Cape Fealty,
Maine. Fact was, I was new to anyplace outside of northeastern
I've heard it said that Kansas has a long-standing history
of keeping its sons and daughters close to home, but in recent
years there have been some notable exceptions. General
Eisenhower, for one. Everyone was so proud of the way
he led the Allied forces during the war with Germany. He
came back to Abilene for a big parade, but once all the
hoopla died down, he left. I don't think he plans on taking
up residence again anytime soon.
My father is in the armed services too. Captain John
Baker, Jr. He's in the navy. You know what they say. There's
two kinds of fellas: navy men and those who wish they
were. My father heard that from his father, Rear Admiral
John Baker, Sr. I'm the third John Baker in a row. Believe
me, I'd rather be a whole of something than just a third.
But you get what you get and you are what you are. That
saying comes from my mom's side of the family. The civilians.
They're the fun side. They call me Jack. My mom calls
me Jackie. At least she used to.
But things changed. That's how I ended up at the edge
of the country. To say I was a fish out of water would be a
good expression but the wrong way to put it. Because there
I was, a landlocked Kansas boy standing on shifting sands
at the ocean's edge. And all I could do was burrow my feet
down deep so I wouldn't get swept away.
I wasn't a complete stranger to sand. There was a goodsized
sandpit near our house. And I'd read a story put out by
the National Geographic Society that told of whole dinosaurs
being found in the Kansas plains. They think Kansas
might have once been covered in water, and after the water
was gone, it was the sand and soil that kept the dinosaur
bones from being scattered and lost.
Early Auden knew all about sand. But growing up in
Maine, he had a whole ocean lapping up on his shore,
washing it away. The first time I saw Early he was filling bag
after bag with sand and stacking them like bricks. Just what
he was trying to keep from washing away, I didn't know. It
was a crazy thing he was doing, but something in me understood
it. I just watched him sandbagging the ocean.
I knew Early Auden could not hold back the ocean. But
that strangest of boys saved me from being swept away.
Walking into the cafeteria that first day, I remembered
the headmaster's words of advice about sitting with
a group in the lunchroom.
As much as I would have preferred to be by myself right
then, I made my way through the lunch line, picked up my
tray of meat loaf, green beans, and Jell- O with banana
slices, then ventured over to a table of boys I recognized
from some of my classes.
One boy it was the chubby Sam Feeney moved over
easy enough as he continued the conversation. "Anybody
who thinks you can outrun a cutter with a gig is a pinhead.
Let's ask the new kid. Baker, which is faster? A cutter or
I had no idea what they were talking about, so I took
the safe way out. I shrugged and said, "Six of one, half dozen
of the other."
Mr. Nelson said
there are no venomous snakes in Maine. Early insisted
there are still timber rattlesnakes up north and walked out."
"How come he's so sure there are timber rattlesnakes?" I
Excerpted from Navigating Early
by Clare Vanderpool. Copyright © 2013 by Clare Vanderpool.
Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.