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Navigating Early

por Clare Vanderpool

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1,0275320,207 (4.04)32
"Odyssey-like adventure of two boys' incredible quest on the Appalachian Trail where they deal with pirates, buried secrets, and extraordinary encounters"--
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"There are no coincidences. Just boatloads of miracles." If you can take this aphorism seriously, you may love this book. If, like me, you think that's kind of a silly thing to say, the number of "miracles" in this book may put you off the otherwise great story. Let me explain (minor spoilers ahead).

This book has a story within a story. The main story takes place in 1945 and concerns a Kansas boy named Jack who's just lost his mother and been shipped off to boarding school in Maine. There he meets "the strangest of boys," Early Auden, and they embark on an adventure instigated by Early.

The secondary story is one that Early tells about a boy named Pi. Have you read the book or seen the movie [b:Life of Pi|4214|Life of Pi|Yann Martel|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320562005s/4214.jpg|1392700]? It's kind of like that--Pi goes off on a boat and has some crazy times. Early says he's "reading" Pi's story from the digits of the number pi.

Here's my problem: Why does each thing that happens in Early's Pi story have to have such a neat corollary in the real world story? It makes the whole book seem kind of magical or allegorical--only, wouldn't it be better if the reader could believe Jack's adventure was real? I started to wonder if maybe Early only existed in Jack's imagination or was some kind of ghost. It's like Early wasn't just a mathematical genius but a psychic, too. For example, Early says that Pi meets an old woman who mistakes him for her son. Shortly thereafter, the boys meet an old woman who mistakes Jack for her son. That is indeed a miraculous coincidence (and that's only one example; there are lots more). If only stuff happened to the boys and then Early incorporated it into Pi's story. Then I wouldn't worry about how the coincidences were piling up too high.

Confession time: I never finished [b:Moon Over Manifest|8293938|Moon Over Manifest|Clare Vanderpool|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320541883s/8293938.jpg|13142485]. Is it full of hyper-real coincidences, too?

Let me close with a piece of writing that encapsulates what I liked and didn't like about this book. It's really beautiful and evocative, but who talks like this? Early Auden does.

"They're not just numbers. And I'm not making up a story. The story is in the numbers. Look at them! The numbers have colors--blues of the ocean and sky, green grass, a bright-yellow sun. The numbers have texture and landscape--mountains and waves and sand and storms. And words--about Pi and about his journey. The numbers tell a story. And you don't deserve to hear it."

I bet Early Auden would tell me I don't deserve to hear his story either. I loved parts of this, but I couldn't swallow the thing whole. Too big a whopper. I will still recommend it to serious young readers who want a big, challenging book. And then I'll be interested to see if they, too, were bothered by the way the boy's adventure mirrored the Pi story.
( )
  LibrarianDest | Jan 3, 2024 |
To view full review: https://www.whatstheword-saywhaaat.blogspot.com

Navigating Early is a poignant tale about friendship, coping with loss, and self-discovery. I read it in one sitting. What touched me was Early's sincerity, earnestness, candidness, and most importantly his ability to see the universe's magic. Throughout the novel, I found the interspersion of the "Story of Pi" riveting, as well as, Early's way to explain things he couldn't easily justify. To Jack, everything about Early is bizarre. Yet, unlike his classmates and the school faculty, Jack does not easily dismiss Early simply because he is different.

The innocence of this book is such a gift. Vanderpool engaged my emotions on every level. Readers will fall in love with Navigating Early. What is there not to love? It has an endearing quality, adventure, true friendship, pirates, and above all else imagination.
  CultivatingYouInc | Dec 5, 2023 |
This book pulled me in even though the whole time I was reading it, I was wondering how many kids will really enjoy it. It's slow-ish, but the setting and characters are so real they drew me in. I liked it very much, but I think it will appeal most to people who enjoy quirky characters. ( )
  kamlibrarian | Dec 23, 2022 |
At first I was surprised it hadn't placed in the Newbery list this year. Then, as I finished it, I realized it was almost too Newbery-ish.

It's as though the author tried too hard.

Doesn't stop it from being a good book, though! ( )
  Jeffrey_G | Nov 22, 2022 |
middlegrade fiction; post-WW2 boarding school/autistic characters/unique boyhood friendships. I've not read Moon over Manifest and only got to page 110 or so of this one, but I expected... I dunno, something else. It wasn't bad, just didn't hit it off with me. I didn't care for the allegorical Pi stories and had trouble identifying with any of the characters or situations, though I don't have trouble with other books that deal with similar underlying themes. I also really didn't buy into Jackie's voice as a 13-year-old boy--for some reason kept picturing a tomboyish girl (or any girl that grows up on a farm, really), or even a bookish girl. ( )
  reader1009 | Jul 3, 2021 |
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