Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool

Navigating EarlyCindy:  I was cheering loudly when Navigating Early (Delacorte 2013) won a Printz Honor this year. It’s always fun to be in the audience at the announcement of the awards, and it’s even more fun when favorite books are honored. If you haven’t read Navigating Early, you are in for a treat. Thom Barthelmess provides an excellent review (linked above) for this difficult-to-describe story. Perhaps I should just add this summary from the main character, Jack Baker, as he reflects back on his adventure with Early Auden:

“Who would have thought a motion-sick kid from Kansas would have embarked on a journey that included 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!”

On her website, Vanderpool tells where she got the idea to write this book…from her mother’s dream. Here’s where I got the idea to read this book…from a Facebook comment from a librarian I admire who said she’d “just read the best book of the year that no teen will read.” I love a challenge. I knew Vanderpool from her 2010 Newbery medal winner, Moon Over Manifest, but it was this comment that spurred me to action. I held up a copy of the book at our teen book club and told the student’s what I’d read and then read them the jacket blurb. Over the next few meetings a 9th grade and a 7th grade boy both read the book and raved about it. I moved it up in my TBR pile but then I got my hands on the audio book and finally got to it. The Navigating Early audio recording was great. I agree that it was one of the best of the year and I am happy to report that there are teen boys who will read it and admire it.

With Pi day coming on Friday, 3/14, this is a perfect week to read or reread Navigating Early.  Early Auden’s savant wisdom, Jack’s yearning to belong, and the tribute to the power of storytelling and connection is something to celebrate.

Lynn:  Count me in as a fan too.  Readers who love a complex, layered story full of twists and turns will thoroughly enjoy this tale about journeys, the search for connections, the power of love and the myriad ways that love is expressed.  Vanderpool does an exquisite job with her depiction of time and place and her characters have a rich quirkiness that is instantly appealing.  I only read this book once but I’m sure that a reread would provide even more to think about and savor.  One admission – I found Pi’s tale not nearly as interesting despite its clear connection to the main story.  It was Jack and Early’s stories that moved me and kept me puzzling.  But our teen readers are clearly smarter than I  – they loved everything about this book, Pi and all!  And after all, they are the real audience here.





About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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