Posted: Friday, October 4, 2013, 8:32 am
If "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" got together with "The Odyssey," their book baby would be "Navigating Early."
Imagine, if you will, a boy being transplanted from the fields of Kansas to the shores of Maine. Try and picture what it would be like to lose your mother and be transported to boarding school where you know no one. In this new place, everyone knows about boats while all he knows is farming. It doesn't matter that this boy's father is a captain in the Navy. This is a boy who has never seen the ocean. This boy feels adrift in his life, maybe even like he is lost at sea. How is this boy to come to terms with all that he has lost?
Jack (our unlikely hero) is quickly befriended by Early Auden at his new school. Early seems to be on the autism spectrum, but Jack just finds him odd. The character development feels authentic. Jack doesn't like Early right away, but over time begins to trust him and see him as a person who also is also a little lost. Death can be hard to deal with and there is no right way to grieve. There is no one way to do anything in life, although Early thinks his way is always the right way. It is a good story of redemption, friendship and understanding.
This book, by Newbery award winner Clare Vanderpool, is for the middle school reader who likes historical fiction, adventure and a little bit of mystery. I loved the way it was written. This incredible adventure of two boys' quest to find a great black bear leads them to pirates, whales, ghosts and volcanoes.
Navigating Early doesn't just tell the story of two boys who have each lost their way after the death of a family member, it also takes its readers on a magical fairy tale through the numbers of pi. How can the numbers of pi tell a story? You'll just have to read it to find out.