So, how do I gather up this story and hold it out for you to discover? There are authors who write to entertain our children with humor and fast-paced action. Kids can devour those books and move on never to look back. Luckily there are authors like Clare Vanderpool who write for children with great respect, great empathy and with a God-given ability to tell a great story.
Jack Baker is headed to an academy in Maine leaving behind his family home in Kansas where the memories of his mother have been tidied up and boxed away by his military father struggling with grief and recently returned from World War II. Jack takes his memories of his mother and the distance from his father into his new life. He doesn't know what sculls or rum-tums are and he doesn't choose to join the group of guys in the dining hall.
Instead he finds himself drawn to a strange boy, Early Auden, who comes and goes like a ghost in the halls and classrooms of Morton Hill Academy. Jack's mother told him to expect a boatload of miracles. She told him to look for the things that connect us all.
This is a story of two boys who go on an adventure up the Appalachian Trail and it's a story about two boys who are figuring out the twists and turns of the trails they are following in their own lives. How much will life take from them without giving anything back? Is it true that if you don't like how something is, you need to take it apart yourself and make it right?
So, the best I can do is tell you to expect a boatload of miracles. The things that will connect you to this book are waiting for you there. You may not even know you're holding on to them right now but when you stumble on them, you'll feel it in the deepest part of you. This is a celebration of life, of believing in wonder, and the deepest reassurance that love is real and even in your darkest moments, just the right hand will reach for yours.
295 pages Ages 10 and up 978-0385742092
Recommended by: Barb
"Step out, take a look at the stars
Catch a glimpse of the way things are"
-- Bruce Cockburn, "Making Contact"
"Mom tilted her head back and looked up at the sky. 'Sounds to me like
you're getting ahead of yourself, Jackie. That's like expecting a young lady
to do your laundry before you gaze into her pretty eyes.'
"I looked at her confused.
"'You're jumping into the navigating part too soon. Maybe you should focus
on the beauty of those stars up there apart from their function. Just take
them in, admire them, stand in awe of them, before you expect them to lead
the way. Besides, who's to say that one group of stars belongs together
and only together? Those stars up there are drawn to each other in lots of
different ways. They're connected in unexpected ways, just like people.'"
NAVIGATING EARLY is a tale about connections. Set near the conclusion of
WWII, this is the story of Jack Baker from Kansas, a young man whose mother
dies unexpectedly while his father is a naval officer serving in the war.
Returning home in the wake of his wife's sudden passing, Jack's father
cleans house and then deposits his son at the Morton Hill Academy (established
1870), in Maine, near the mouth of the Kennebec River. It is there that Jack
comes to know the Academy's most unusual student, Early Auden, a young man
of short stature who, today, we would peg as being somewhere on the
functioning end of the autistic spectrum.
Early Auden, who is also suffering from loss, becomes Jack's teacher,
guide, and true friend, as the pair eventually sets off on a quest of discovery
that brings them into contact with a lot of unusual characters and shows
Jack, time and again, that his mother was so right about those unexpected
"Just a little ways off from our camp, I noticed a pile of cracked walnut
shells on the ground. Looking up, I studied a tall oak tree that might have
been home to a hungry squirrel who'd been spying on us during the night.
That was probably it. Still, I couldn't help feeling that someone else had
been watching us."
NAVIGATING EARLY is in equal parts mysterious, fantastical, celestial, and
gritty. More than once, I said, "What...the...heck?" but I held on and
enjoyed the ride as the many seemingly disparate ends wound around and all
And let's face it. A well-told tale about connections that's got both
Mozart and Billie Holiday going on is truly something to behold.
Recommended by: Richie Partington, MLIS, Librarian, California USA
See more of his recommendations at: Richie's Picks _http://richiespicks.com_
Early Auden sees a story in the numbers that make up Pi. His response when
confronted with the claim by a professor that the number 1 has disappeared
from Pi and that Pi will eventually end, is that "sometimes he's hard to
find for a while, but he always comes back. I always find him."
In 1945, Early and a classmate, Jack Baker, follow the Appalachian Trail on
a quest to “look for Pi.”
As the journey unfolds, Early reveals details about his older brother,
reportedly killed during D-Day (the Allied invasion at Normandy).
Through the lens of Jack's first-person narration, Early emerges as a
fascinating character. He exhibits traits of an autistic savant without
those traits ever being named. Among additional resources, author Clare
Vanderpool includes first-hand accounts by people on the autism spectrum:
"Thinking in Pictures" by Temple Grandin and "Born on a Blue Day" by Daniel
In her afterword, Vanderpool explains, she chose not to use the terms
"autism" or "savant" in the story, "because most people in 1945 would have
been unfamiliar with them, and most people with autism would have been
undiagnosed. A person like Early would just have been considered strange."
"Navigating Early" (Delacorte Press, 2013) was recommended to me by Denise
Wilson at the Ashland Branch Library, Jackson County Library Services in
Recommended by: Cynthia M. Parkhill, Library Assistant, Oregon USA
See more of her reviews : http://cynthiaparkhill.blogspot.com/