Navigating Early by Clare Vnaderpool, a 2014 Printz Honor Book, is a moving novel of friendship, forgiveness, and moving on.
After the death of his mother, Jack Baker’s father moves him from Kansas to a boy’s boarding school in Maine. His life turned upside down, Jack makes friend with an odd boy named Early Auden who only attends class when he wishes, lives down in the basement, and listens to a variety of records depending upon the day and the weather.
Inadvertently left alone at school over the break, Jack and Early embark upon a journey by boat to find the Great Appalachian Bear. Fraught with danger and numerous surprises, the boys learn a great deal about themselves and each other in the process.
Throughout the story runs the mythical story of Pi, an adventurer whose journey closely relates to Jack’s and Early’s.
I don’t often listen to audio books, but for this grade level they are fun. The variety of characters portrayed in this adventurous tale is superb. The narrator was fabulous! I don’t want to give away too much because the surprises along the way are worth picking up this book, but let me say that even though there are down times in this book, the pace is fairly steady.
Navigating Early is filled with engaging characters whose story will captivate you fully. Not only is Jack coping with the death of his mother, but he has a difficult relationship with his military father. Both Jack and Early Auden are odd men out when it comes to school. Early’s ties to the school hero who went off to war and Jack’s inability to row at a school where rowing is a right of passage, bring them together. But it isn’t until the journey they take while alone at school that Jack can appreciate Early’s friendship.
I loved everything about this book: the plot development, the character development, the hooks, the shocks, and the tears. The mythical story of Pi ties in nicely and connects the boys in more ways than one.
If your middle grade reader only picks up one book this year, it should be Navigating Early.
Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
Age Range: 10 and up
Grade Level: 5 and up
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Yearling (December 23, 2014)
I borrowed this book from the library. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.