A few weeks ago Colby Sharp tweeted that he was reading an incredible book that had Newbery written all over it. That comment alone made me purchase said book immediately. The title? Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool.
I devoured this book. From the first pages I fell in love with Jack and Early and just wanted to stay immersed in their world. You start out meeting Jack, a teen from Kansas at the end of World War II. He has just lost his mom, his dad is moving him cross-country to attend a boarding school in Maine. It is there that he meets a fellow student named Early Auden who is a bit odd. The story follows the friendship of Early and Jack and Early’s story of Pi, who is a boy whose story is told through the number pi.
This book is so hard to describe. You have the story of Pi – a number but a boy? And the way that Early can “see” his story through images and colors when looking at the number. And his unwavering conviction that Pi is lost and that he and Jack must go on a journey to rescue him. And then you have the “pirates” the Great Appalachian Bear, the lumberjack, the ancient one, and more. I told my students that while there was so much to tell them about, it all boiled down to one thing. This is the story of friendship. What would you do for your friends? And the story of loss. And of love. And of acceptance. Regret. So many lessons are contained between these covers, it is a must read.
One side note, many years ago, 1995 to be exact, my dad asked me to read a book he had fallen in love with – A Prayer for Owen Meany. It was my junior year in college and I was fascinated by this book. It was unlike anything I had ever read before. And while I have never reread it, sometimes I am reminded of it. Last January I read The Art of Fielding and constantly thought of A Prayer for Owen Meany as I read. Navigating Early also gave me the same feeling. I have no idea what the three books have in common, only that I think all three are exceptionally well written for certain. If any of you have read the three and see a connection that my brain is picking up but not sharing completely with me, please share in the comments! J As for Navigating Early, this is a book any middle grade classroom should feature prominently on their shelves.