Sunday, December 15, 2013

Navigating Early

Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool

This book reminded me a lot of young boy adventure stories; most notably the works of Mark Twain such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer as well as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I enjoyed a lot of it just for the sense of rough and tumble adventure it exuded.

Here's the amazon summary to get a better feel for this book, "New York Times Best Seller Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool, Newbery Medalist for Moon Over Manifest, is an odyssey-like adventure of two boys' incredible quest on the Appalachian Trail where they deal with pirates, buried secrets, and extraordinary encounters.

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." AMAZON LINK OF JUSTICE

It's the end of World War II, Jack Baker's mother has died and he's moved from Kansas to Maine as his Dad is trying to bring him closer to where he's stationed. He's enrolled in a boarding school where he meets Early Auden (the title is a clever play on youth and the story's events) who is a strange young boy with his own tragic past. Jack is struggling with his mother's death, being the new kid at school, and trying to understand a Dad he hasn't seen since he was 9 (he's now 13).

Jack loves to read National Geographic magazines and has a thirst for an adventure. He gets more than he bargained for when Early steps up to be his friend, to help with Jack's loneliness. The boys embark on an adventure of friendship, of pi, of finding family love, and getting a knack on just how to survive.

I felt that this story really rolled everything together in a beautiful way. There were a lot of teachable life moments that snuck into the story, there was a lot of character growth from both Early and Jack, while managing to have a constant action aspect. None of it was overwhelming but rather well balanced.

Well-balanced to the point where I feel a little tongue tied trying to talk about the book without revealing too much. It's one of those books in a good way.

There was an interesting narration in this book as it was told from Jack's perspective for the most part but there were spots where every so often it followed Pi's adventure (which comes into play later in the book). Both were interesting and never seemed out of place or poorly timed when the narration switched.

I thought the language of the writing let itself be easily imagined to take place after World War II; I didn't notice anything that was glaringly obvious to be an out of period reference, then again I'm not well-versed in World War II in Maine. So, eh?

It kept my interest, it was a quick read, and had a heartwarming, kind of coming of age message.

Happy reading!

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