Summary and book reviews of Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool

Navigating Early

by Clare Vanderpool

Navigating Early
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jan 2013, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Dec 2014, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Sharry Wright

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Book Summary

New York Times Best Seller Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool, Newbery Medalist for Moon Over Manifest, is an odyssey-like adventure of two boys' incredible quest on the Appalachian Trail where they deal with pirates, buried secrets, and extraordinary encounters.

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.

PROLOGUE

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 Kansas.

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 ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Explain what Jack means when he says, "You get what you get and you are what you are." (p. 2) Later Jack says, "Somehow Early maintained a sense of direction. He knew who he was and where he was going. I did not." (p. 101) What is Jack's greatest obstacle? What is Jack's direction by the end of the novel?
  2. Jack often refers to being lonely. What is his first twinge of loneliness? Discuss what he could have done upon arrival at Morton Hill to help his situation. How might he interact differently when he arrives back at school after his adventure with Early? Debate whether Early is lonely. What is signifi cant about Early thanking Jack for coming with him?
  3. Discuss how the faculty and students at...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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).

Full Review Members Only (1028 words).

Media Reviews

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.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This multilayered, intricately plotted story has a kaleidoscopic effect, blurring the lines between reality and imagination, coincidence and fate.

Booklist

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.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Navigating this stunning novel requires thought and concentration, but it's well worth the effort. Ages 10-14.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Stories In The Sky: The Myths of Ursa Major

Since the beginning of time, people have been looking up at the stars, connecting the fiery dots and telling stories about the images they create in the sky. Even in modern times, we are taught to see the man with a belt and a sword, the regal chair, a big dipper and a little one; once you've located at least an approximate location, Orion, Cassiopeia's Chair, the Big and Little Dipper, are fairly easy to identify, although it takes practice and real imagination to see a dragon, a swan, a crab, an archer or the many other constellations.

Ursa Major The Big Dipper is most likely the most famous and easily recognizable. Officially, the Big Dipper is not a constellation but rather part of the constellation known as Ursa Major, which means Big Bear...

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