Navigating Early

Navigating Early

by Claire Vanderpool

Find it at: Your library | Amazon | IndieBound

Published: Delacorte Books for Young Readers, and imprint of Random House Children’s Books (January 8, 2013)

Recommended Reading Age: 10 & up

In a Nutshell: A tale of friendship and the unforgettable journey of two boys in their quest for truth, Navigating Early is author Claire Vanderpool’s first appearance since her 2011 Newbery Award Winner, Moon Over Manifest.

After Jack Baker’s mother passes away, his father, a navy captain during WWII, uproots him from his home in Kansas and moves him to a boarding school in Maine. Upset by the loss of his mother, his home, and anything familiar, Jack finds himself entirely alone in his new surroundings. That is, until he meets odd-ball Early Auden, who has also recently lost someone he loved dearly. Early lives in the custodian’s room of the school with his pet frog, bizarre charts and news clippings, a jar of jellybeans, and a continuous string of numbers written across the chalkboard in the room- the number Pi. Another reason Early is very different from other boys is that he doesn’t just see numbers when we looks at Pi. He sees colors, he sees characters, he sees an epic story narrated by numbers.


“Before the stars had names, before men knew how to use them to plot their courses, before anyone had ventured beyond his own horizon, there was a boy who wondered what lay beyond. He gazed up at the stars with praise and wonder, but his wonder was not only born of awe. It was also born of a question: Why?”


Thus begins Early’s story of a boy named Polaris who’s nickname is Pi; a boy that would become a navigator and eventually earn the full name give by his mother. It’s a story of the stars, of discovery, of family, and loss; of getting lost and finding oneself. As Early reveals Pi’s story, the character’s mission becomes threatened as well as blurred with the two boys’ reality. In an effort to steer Pi back on his destined course, Early and Jack set off on an impossible journey to find a bear that Early believes will remedy Pi’s troubles, prove that he is alive, and not just some character from Early’s imagination.

How insane and awesome, am I right? You can’t say you’ve ever read a book like this before. EVER. While reading Navigating Early, I kept envisioning the Olympic rings symbol. Multiple circles of interconnected stories and characters, a circling that always comes back around. Like the infinity symbol; like the endless number Pi. It’s brilliant.

Claire Vanderpool’s story reminds me that we are all on a similar journey of hope and self-discovery. These struggles and journeys are universal and are never-ending, if you keep them alive within your heart to keep going. It’s a test and it’s always worth it in the end; that some of these voyages are not possible without the strength of a friend and those who believe in the power that lies in the stars and within your own being.

What does this novel not have? The narrative flowed as if watching it on a projector, but watching this story would take away from the utterly beautiful and lyrical way in which it is written. Rich and steady. Navigating Early is destined to be a classic.

Don’t take my word for it: “Navigating Early is mysterious and magical, brimful of surprising characters, and with an ending that’s a sigh of satisfaction.” – review from A Year of Reading

Extras: Learn about Claire Vanderpool’s favorite children’s books via Omivoracious and also be sure to read about author Claire Vanderpool on her website.

Source of book reviewed: From the wonderful people at Random House Children’s Books.


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  1. […] recently read Navigating Early by Kansas author Claire Vanderpool. And loved it. Almost finished with Hokey Pokey by Jerry Spinelli and also loving it. So far this year’s […]

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