Friday, July 5, 2013

Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool

Name recognition works because as I scanned the new book section at our library Clare Vanderpool's name popped out at me like it had bright lights flashing around it.  Remember the wonderful historical fiction Moon over Manifest?  See my review here.  She won the Newberry medal for her debut novel.  Now she's written another amazing story featuring two new characters,  Jack Baker and Early Auden.

From the inside panel:

After his mother's death at the end of WWII, Jack Baker is suddenly uprooted from his home in Kansas and placed in a boys' boarding school in Maine.  There he meets Early Auden, the strangest of boys, who reads the number pi as an unending story and collects clippings about sightings about sightings of a black bear in the nearby mountains.

Feeling lost and adrift, Jack can't help being drawn to Early, who refuses to 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 was lost in the war.  

When Jack and Early find themselves alone at school, they set out for the Appalachian Trail on a quest for the great black bear.  Along the way, they meet some truly strange characters, several of them dangerous, all lost in some way, and each a part of the pi story Early continues to reveal.  Jack's ability to be a steadfast friend to Early will be tested as the boys discover  things they never knew about themselves and others.  

Like Moon over Manifest Vanderpool combines plucky characters with an amazingly tale that contains both historical fiction with magical realism.  My library copy was filled with sticky notes as I marveled over her magical way with words.


"Monday morning came like a cool Kansas shower on a hot, humid day.  In other words, it was a relief.  Because now at least I had a schedule.  I knew that history came first, followed by Latin, English, and math." {14}

"Finally, I pulled the Sweetie Pie along the dock with a scraping noise that sounded like a cat on a midnight prowl.  Preston, Sam, Robbie Dean, and the others all watched with pained grimaces on their faces, waiting for the boat and the noise to come to a stop.  I stood up and felt the evil Sweetie Pie pitch left, then right, and before I could say Jack Tar, I was upended in Wabenaki Bay." {43}

"We walked a ways in silence.  Early looked up at the night sky as the clouds cleared and found the constellation Ursa Major, the Great Bear.  We followed it into the darkness, in search of another great bear-this one on the Appalachian Trail.  My feet were heavy, and the woods closed in around us.  There was only darkness and danger in front of us.  And now there were dogs and pirates behind us. Early's quest had gone on long enough.  It was time to turn back.  I opened my mouth to say so, but Early spoke first." {187-188}

I can tell you Early does not plan on turning back...

Vanderpool can turn a phrase, can't she?  I feel like there's a little Bluegrass music playing in the background as Early and Jack explore the Appalachian Trail finding more than just adventure.

NY Times article about Navigating Early
Clare Vanderpool's website.

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