Navigating Early

In YA Book Reviews on July 29, 2014 at 8:56 pm


By Clare Vanderpool

Adventure/Mystery/Historical Fiction/©2014/Stand Alone/Recommended for Middle School Students and Above

Publisher Comments (Goodreads):

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.

First Line: “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.

My Thoughts:

In a nutshell, this is a welcome addition to the coming of age stories, filled with great life lessons and insights. The story line is intriguing, the characters are fascinating, and the writing is just exquisite. On one level, it is an adventure story that middle grade readers (especially boys) will get caught up in. On another level, it has extremely deep and powerful underlying themes and values that just beg  to be discussed. This is an absolutely outstanding book.

Just one of my favorite lines:The song wound its way around me with echoes of gloom and sadness and ghosts of yesterday. A yesterday that was gone and wasn’t coming back.”

My Rating: 4/5 Stars



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