Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool

I read Clare Vanderpool’s debut Moon over Manifest after it won the 2011 Newbery Award and must say it was not my favorite book. I manged to get through it but the story really didn’t do anything for me. Plus I listened to this one on audio and I think the narrator just wasn’t right for the age of the narrator. So when I saw Vanderpool had a new book coming I decide I would keep an open mind and give it a try. Navigating Early in my humble opinion is much better than her first novel.

Jack has lost his bearings. As a Kansas boy his is uprooted after the death of his mother to Maine where is father has been stationed. His dad enrolls him in the Morton Hill Academy where the don’t even have baseball but rowing and for a boy who can’t row in a straight line this is a problem. There Jack meets Early a rather strange boy who reads the number pi as a story and has been collecting newspaper clippings of a great bear on the Appalachian Trail.

I think what really struck me about this book was the amazing depth of the story. On one level it is a story about the new kid finding his way at a new school. Discovering a friendship that would help both boys deal with their past.  Through this friendship Navigating Early also explores loss as both Jack and Early are dealing with the loss of a loved one and through their journey to find this great bear the discover themselves.

I love it when a book surprises me and Navigating Early surprised me. I rather enjoyed this middle-grade novel and even better this is one that I think older readers and adults alike will enjoy this one. Vanderpool’s writing really shines in Navigating Early. The depth and characters are wonderfully written and shows that a children’s novel can be well written and be enjoyed. This is one that will be on my radar come time for the 2014 Newbery Award.

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