A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that In Navigating Early is an adventure novel by Clare Vanderpool, author of the Newbery Award-winning Moon Over Manifest. Set shortly after the end of World War II, it follows a grieving eighth grader named Jack, who's sent to boarding school after his mother dies. During spring break, Jack and his new friend Early embark on a quest along the Appalachian Trail without letting any grown-ups know. On their journey, they search for Early's missing brother and the Great Appalachian Bear, and they encounter some men who threaten them with a gun. The sense of real danger is tempered by parallels to the story of Pi that Early tells Jack, which gives their quest a mythical, heroic quality.
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What's the story?
After 13-year-old Jack's mother dies, his father sends him from Kansas to a boarding school in Maine to deal with his grief on his own. he feels out of place at the Morton Hill Academy feels out of place until he befriends Early Auden, a strange boy who seems to come and go as he likes, and who believes there's an important story to be found in the numbers that make up the number pi. Early tells parts of the tale to Jack throughout the book, and though Early insists the story of Pi, a young man named after the number, is true, Jack is skeptical. Still, when Early insists he's going to travel the Appalachian Trail to find the Pi of his legend, Jack reluctantly agrees to come along, and the boys set off on a quest that eerily mirrors the Pi story, complete with pirates, hidden treasures, a giant black bear, and redemption.
Is it any good?
NAVIGATING EARLY intertwines the past and present to create a meaningful and compelling story of two boys dealing with loss and loneliness. As in her Newbery Award-winning Moon Over Manifest, author Clare Vanderpool expertly deals with complex emotions, wrapping them in metaphor and refracting them throughout the cast of characters, so that each is fully realized and even the bad guys reveal their pain. This is not just a psychological exploration, however: It's an adventure story, and the boys' odyssey is filled with enough peril and narrow escapes to keep readers engaged.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why quests are so popular in stories. What other books you've read or moves you've seen have an epic quest at the core of the plot?
Since Navigating Early takes place in 1945, Jack and Early have only a flashlight and compass with them. If you went on that journey today, what technology would you be sure to take along?
Early says you must always listen to Billie Holiday's music on rainy days. What music do you like to listen to when it rains? How about when it's sunny?
- Author: Clare Vanderpool
- Genre: Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs, Pirates, Wild Animals
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Delacorte Press
- Publication date: January 8, 2013
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 12
- Number of pages: 320
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: ALA Best and Notable Books
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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