Friday, November 15, 2013

NAVIGATING EARLY by Clare Vanderpool

A Trail, A Bear, and A Soldier

To start off, this book is about grief, getting lost, then finding the right path back to life.  In other words, it is hopeful.  Like I said before, this book will stitch your heart back the right way.  I think this is the right kind of inspiration that my countrymen and I badly needed in these catastrophic times.
“…the team captains had yet to learn: life can’t be held in a cup, and nothing lasts forever.”
The setting is set at the end of World War II, a time when the world needed much healing.  Our narrator is 13-year old Jack Baker from Kansas, who lost his mom from a brain aneurysm.  Since his dad is in the Navy, he was sent to a boarding school in Maine.  Jack had some difficulty adjusting to his new environment.  He felt that he was groping through everyday challenges. Until he met Early Auden, another orphan himself.
“For me, they are blue and purple and sand and
ocean and rough and smooth and loud and whispering,
all at the same time.”
Navigating through Early is difficult.  He’s nothing like Jack has encountered before.  If I have to make a guess, Early has Synesthesia (or to be more accurate ideasthesia).  It may be easy to assume that he has autism because he has demonstrated prodigious abilities and he’s hyper-systemized.  But he has no problem utilizing his great memory. He is synesthetes, although it is very rare for a person to possess synesthesia involving 3 or more senses.  He has graphene, he sees numbers in colors.  He has spatial sequence synesthesia; he has a great memory, he can gather facts in detail and make use of them exactly when it is needed again.  He has ordinal linguistic personification; every day of the week is represented by a different musician -Louis Armstrong on Mondays, Frank Sinatra on Wednesday, and Billy Holiday on a rainy day.
“Early needed the numbers to continue,
the story to continue,
and he needed Pi to stay alive.”
The most special thing about Early is that he has Number Form Synesthesia, a mental map of numbers. In Early’s head, Pi (π, 3.14159) has a story –a quest he and Jack have to follow.  Finding Pi means finding their way back to life as well.  Each step they take, they meet some memorable people who coincidentally reflect Pi’s quest. The profoundness of these people’s lives is vital in finding what the boys are looking for.  In the end, completing the quest is not only their success but for others as well.
“It’s the same up there as it is down here, Jackie. 
You have to look for the things that connect us all. 
Find the ways our paths cross, our lives intersect, and our hearts collide.”
I believe Ms. Vanderpool pulled the blurring of the narratives very well.  She made those coincidental turn into something justifiable. The details were carefully and gradually revealed, patiently building the story into a whole.  She’s a seamless storyteller, who begins her weaving in creating endearing characters. 
“I got lost.”

“I know, but you found your way back. 
Finding your way doesn’t mean you always know where you’re going. 
It’s knowing how to find your way back home that’s important.”
On the whole, NAVIGATING EARLY is a very rewarding read –lovely and inspiring.  I highly recommend it.

Book details:
Title:  Navigating Early
Author:  Clare Vanderpool
Publisher:  Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Published:  January 8, 2013
Genre:  Children’s Books, Historical Fiction
Source:  Purchased
Rating : ★★★★★

F2F, January 2015
Photo courtesy of Maria Ella Bestos


  1. Ooooohhh! I love Claire Vanderpool! Her Newberry-winning novel, Moon Over Manifest, was one of my best reads last year. It was heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time. I'll definitely read this one.

    If you like the narrative style of Vanderpool, then I think you'd also like the novels of Gary Schmidt. My favorites are Okay for Now and Wednesday Wars, which was my best read for 2011.

    1. Thank you, Peter!
      Adding those books to my TBR pile. ♥

  2. Oh, Early is a name pala! This book seems pretty awesome! I do enjoy reading books with extraordinary kids in them. Like the Mysterious Benedict Society kids and the Baudelaire kids. The only time I heard of Claire Vanderpool was when you recommended this book to me on Goodreads. And Peter mentioned Gary Schmidt. I have a copy of his Lizzie Bright and Buckminster Boy which I haven't read yet. :)

    1. I think you'll like both Early and Ms. Vanderpool, Tin! ♥