by Clare Vanderpool
"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."
I'm so glad that I read this book. It is a sweet and lovely story of Early Auden (that strangest of boys) and Jack Baker (the son of a WWII naval captain), as they go on a quest right after the end of World War II. They are each searching for different things. In our time, Early would be called an autistic savant. He was obsessed with the number pi - the numbers told him a story of a boy named Pi. The story of Pi is interwoven with the story of the boys. It sounds confusing, but it is woven together seamlessly. The boys have many adventures that mirror the adventures of Pi. This book is moving and uplifting. I didn't quite want to hug the book when I was done, but it was close.
Areas of concern: No language, no sexual situations. Wilderness adventures that put the boys in danger. A story of a man who lost an eye in a fight with a bear, and another man who was burned and scarred. A boy gets shot and killed.
Kirkus Reviews: Ages 10-14
School Library Journal: Grades 6-9