Book Review: Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool

Posted 01/08/2014 by alicemarvels in Historical Fiction
Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool




Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Release Date: January 8, 2013
Page Count: 306


a beautiful story of unlikely friendship; a gorgeous fable weaved into the story; thrilling adventures; lovable, charming characters


some of Early and Jack's adventures strain believability, but it didn't really bother me

Another beautiful, touching story of friendship and finding your place in the world from Clare Vanderpool.

“There are no coincidences. Just miracles by the boatload.” 

Navigating Early, the sophomore outing by Newbery winner Clare Vanderpool, has pretty big shoes to fill. Her debut novel, Moon Over Manifest, is an unbelievably charming and heartwarming historical story I fell head over heels for, and I’m thrilled to report that sort of story seems to be Vanderpool’s sweet spot. Navigating Early is a post-WWII tale of two boys who don’t quite fit in dealing with loss and finding the strength in their friendship they need to face the harsh realities, both emotional and physical, of the world.

After Jack Baker’s mother passes away, he is shipped off to an all-boys school in Maine. His father is in the navy, and hardly ever around, so Jack knows he has to try to fit in, even if it means facing his sea-sickness and joining the crew team. When Jack meets another boy who doesn’t fit in, Early Auden, he initially thinks of him as a weird outsider. Early is obsessed with routine and the number Pi, and he describes the world in ways Jack can’t fathom. Today Early would be diagnosed as autistic, but in the late 1940’s, he’s just labeled a bit of an oddball.

Early’s unique, persistent thought process helps Jack to see the world in a different way, at a time when he sorely needs to have his worldview shaken. As Jack and Early embark on a quest to find the Great Appalachian Bear of local lore, they are tested physically and emotionally on an adventure that parallels the epic fable of Pi, who is not just a number but a great adventurer through the eyes of Early. The interweaving of Pi’s story with Early and Jack’s adventures on the Appalachian trail is as enchanting and perfectly executed as the dual tales of Abilene and Jinx in Moon Over Manifest.

Navigating Early confirms Clare Vanderpool is a master of quiet, heartwarming stories that transport you to another time and place, the sort that appeal equally to adults and children. I can’t wait to see what journey she takes us on next.




    Why have I not read this author? She sounds wonderful. I think I would really enjoy this and I am always up for a good historical read. Thanks for calling my attention to it. I will add it to the old TBR.


    The kind of book I’d like to see on the big screen


    Oh wow! You had me with the review but sealed it with that last paragraph! Oh I’m so checking out this author!


    hmm, this author is totally new to me, but I love the sound of this from the time period to the setting. Wonderful review and although some scenes seemed far-fetched I am glad you enjoyed it 🙂


    I am ready for another Vanderpool story. I liked Moon Over Manifest,and if this is more of the same, that’s a good thing. Thanks for the lovely review.


    I am so glad that you liked this one every bit as much as her first novel and I love this description “unbelievably charming and heartwarming historical story” Makes me want to pick it up too!


    I have not heard of this book or this author but now I am glad I have-you’ve made this one sound wonderful! I love a book that just focuses on a pure friendship 🙂


    I wonder what kind of mystery is being weaved into the number Pi. Thanks for introducing us to this fabulous story!


    I haven’t read this author before, but that’s great you loved her latest just as much as the first! sounds like a new favorite author, and that’s always a plus. I think my sister might enjoy this one!


    This is out of my comfort zone…but I think I’m in love. *runs to the bookstore*
    I haven’t read this author, though I’ve heard of her award-winning story (which, seriously, I need to read). Newbery has a knack for picking evocative writers.


    This isn’t the type of book I would normally pick up, but it sounds absolutely beautiful and I think sometimes I really need to widen my reading horizons so I don’t miss out on gems like this. I’m a fan of quiet, heartwarming stories, so thanks for putting this one on my radar!


    Love those unlikely friendships, and I am one that can easily ignore the strains of plausibility


    This sounds like a an extraordinary story. I have it on my to-read list and even though I don’t read historical stories that much, this one seems to tell about some timeless lessons. Great review, Lauren 🙂


    How have I not heard of this one, Lauren? I NEED this book! Though I feel I would need tissues handy as well, I think it would be worth it to read such a heartwarming story. Early and Jack sound like amazing characters, and I think this is one both my daughter and I could enjoy. Stunning review!


    I’ve had this author’s work recommended to me so many times, so I really do just need to finally read her books. Wonderful review – you’ve made me move this up my TBR considerably! 🙂

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