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Navigating Early

9780385742092_p0_v1_s260x420When a young boy loses his mother, his quest for survival includes an adventure with a brilliant mathematical prodigy in Clare Vanderpool’s Navigating Early. As the author of the Newbery winning Moon Over Manifest, Vanderpool knows how to create suspense, excitement, and heart-rending moments; she made me cry and cheer with and for her characters.

When Jack Baker’s mother dies suddenly, his Naval officer father returns from the World War II front to a Northeast military base and enrolls Jack in a boarding school in Maine, far from the home he has always known in Kansas. Still reeling from grief, Jack, the new boy at school, finds solace in the friendship of another loner, Early Auden, who sees numbers in color and has created a story around the number pi that includes his quest to find his brother – declared dead after an explosion during the war in France. Auden is convinced that his brother is alive, and that clues to finding him lay in the calculation of the 3.14 number base – pi – and the story he weaves around it. As Jack and Auden follow the Appalachian trail through a journey that includes…

“pirates, a volcano, a great white whale, a hundred year-old woman, a lost hero, a hidden cave, a great Appalachian bear, and a timber rattlesnake – in Maine,”

both finally find peace and connections to their families, themselves, and to each other. This story of friendship, coping, and self-discovery is aimed at the middle school reader, but, as an adult, I count it as a favorite. As Jack’s mother advised…

“You have to look for the things that connect us all. Find the ways our paths cross, our lives intersect, and our hearts collide…”

Related Post: Review of “Moon Over Manifest”

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