At the end of World War II, Jack Baker, a landlocked Kansas boy, is suddenly uprooted after his mother's death and placed in a boy's boarding school in Maine. There, Jack encounters Early Auden, the strangest of boys, who reads the number pi as a story and collects clippings about the sightings of a great black bear in the nearby mountains.
Newcomer Jack feels lost yet can't help being drawn to Early, who won't believe what everyone accepts to be the truth about the Great Appalachian Bear, Timber Rattlesnakes, and the legendary school hero known as The Fish, who never returned from the war. When the boys find themselves unexpectedly alone at school, they embark on a quest on the Appalachian Trail in search of the great black bear. But what they are searching for is sometimes different from what they find. They will meet truly strange characters, each of whom figures into the pi story Early weaves as they travel, while discovering things they never realized about themselves and others in their lives.
Readers who choose to follow Jack and Early on their quest will find surprise, a light shined on dark secrets, and many unexpected and accidental treasures along the way. They will leave Navigating Early with inner riches to guide them on their own quests, whatever and wherever they might be. (Reviewed by Sharry Wright).
The Wall Street Journal
An emotionally believable and moving work of magical realism.
The New York Times
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.
The Washington Post
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.
Starred Review. This multilayered, intricately plotted story has a kaleidoscopic effect, blurring the lines between reality and imagination, coincidence and fate.
Starred Review. 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. Navigating this stunning novel requires thought and concentration, but it's well worth the effort. Ages 10-14.
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