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Navigating Early

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating Details  ·  7,120 Ratings  ·  1,383 Reviews
At the end of World War II, Jack Baker, a landlocked Kansas boy, is suddenly uprooted after his mother’s death and placed in a boy’s boarding school in Maine. There, Jack encounters Early Auden, the strangest of boys, who reads the number pi as a story and collects clippings about the sightings of a great black bear in the nearby mountains.

Newcomer Jack feels lost yet can’
Hardcover, 306 pages
Published January 8th 2013 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
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Morgan He is likely gifted. Early is also located on the autism spectrum. Children and teens with autism generally have an easier time learning things they…moreHe is likely gifted. Early is also located on the autism spectrum. Children and teens with autism generally have an easier time learning things they are interested in, such as Early's interest with Pi. (less)
Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg SloanNavigating Early by Clare VanderpoolDoll Bones by Holly BlackEscape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris GrabensteinFlora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo
Newbery 2014
2nd out of 110 books — 443 voters
The School for Good and Evil by Soman ChainaniThe Runaway King by Jennifer A. NielsenRump by Liesl ShurtliffThe Ability by M.M. VaughanThe House of Hades by Rick Riordan
Middle Grade Novels of 2013
33rd out of 360 books — 716 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Dec 24, 2013 Mitch rated it it was amazing
Reading Navigating Early, I totally see why Clare Vanderpool won the Newbery last year. Hers are books that fall within that special category of middle grade fiction that speak as well to adults as to children, capturing not only the magic of childhood but also the hard hitting realizations of growing up. Even more impressively, I have to say her skillful yet subtle exploration of the themes of friendship, loss, and self discovery really snuck up on me here, and only serves to make this even mor ...more
Mar 13, 2013 Samuel rated it it was ok
Shelves: children
The best characters in children's literature are ones we can believe as people. We read about Ramona Quimby, or Dicey Tillerman, or Bud Caldwell, and we feel like they're living, breathing human beings, people we wouldn't be surprised to meet. This is true even in books that aren't realistic fiction -- although the adventures of Meg O'Keefe, Will Stanton, and Lyra Belacqua may be otherworldly, their personalities are still recognizable and sharply focused. And, maybe most of all, it's true of ch ...more
Colby Sharp
Dec 23, 2012 Colby Sharp rated it it was amazing
Dear Heavy Medal Blog,

Good luck trying to tear this book apart. I'm sure that it will be a part of your Newbery discussions, and hope first look at all of the amazingness that this book contains.

Early is the type of character that once he enters a reader's heart he never leaves.

Your friend,

Mr. Sharp
Jubilation Lee
I picked up Navigating Early out of shame, because I STILL have not gotten around to reading Moon Over Manifest and I was hoping that reading another of Clare Vanderpool’s books would sort of redeem me in the eyes of my book-reading peers, all of whom have been very much, “But… but it won the NEWBERY how have you not READ it yet!?”

I’m sorryyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!

Unfortunately, I’m not totally won over by this novel, as wonderfully well-written as it is.

Navigating Early is the WWII-era story of Jack, w
Dec 31, 2013 Donalyn rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the artistry of this book, but often questioned the intended audience for this book. It seems like the kind of book that adults adore and few kids read. While promoted in some circles as a middle grade novel, I don't know of a single ten year old in the past decade I could have given this book to that would understand it or finish it.

Don't worry about who you are going to pass it to when you are done. Read Navigating Early for yourself and enjoy Vanderpool's gift for language and inte
Cassi aka Snow White Haggard
Jan 15, 2013 Cassi aka Snow White Haggard rated it really liked it
Shelves: galleys, read-in-2013
Navigating Early is the story of three boys. Jackie, the protagnoist, a Kansas transpant who finds himself in a military boarding school in Maine after the sudden death of his mother. Jackie feels guilty about his mother's death, disconnected from his father and unsure about the world. He's learned some tough life lessons too young. Early, a strange but intelligent boy who lives more in his own head than reality. He too has experienced a loss. Instead of balling everything up inside like Jacky, ...more
Jan 09, 2015 Monique rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Monique by: Louize

Complete marginalia HERE.

"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.”

What an inspiring, touching story about friendship, loss, family, connections, and love. What a wonderful story to start the new year with!
Jan 14, 2013 Heidi rated it really liked it
If you read and loved Vanderpool’s heartwarming debut and Newberry Medal Winning Moon Over Manifest and are hoping to find the same depth of humanity in her sophomore novel, Navigating Early, you are in luck. In fact, my greatest criticism about Navigating Early is that it’s too thematically similar to Moon Over Manifest, so let me get that gripe out of the way before I can dive into why Navigating Early is such a wonderful read.

Both books involve children who are displaced–they have left what h
Apr 30, 2015 Louize rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, tfg-f2f
From The Page Walker

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
Jan 20, 2015 Lynai rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Lynai by: Louize
Shelves: 2015-books
What a heartwarming read. My throat constricted and I had tears on my eyes. Early, you are an amazing kid. Looking forward to reading Moon Over Manifest.
More thoughts soon.


It’s been a while since I’ve read a middle-grade/children’s book and I was excited when I learned that the book club’s book of the month for January has chosen a book along this genre. There is something soothing and uplifting in a children’s book and Navigating Early is no exception. It tells a strong story about
When a book is a slow-starter, it's not as tough as an audiobook. If you're halfway through the audiobook and you don't feel as if anything as happened, it's tough. Things definitely pick up halfway through, but will any kid stick with this? The reader is great. It's just a tough sell.
From a purely craft perspective I don't think that this book is remarkable (so my rating might change when I'm more objective idk). But I found myself sobbing as I read one of the Stargazer sections, and that says a hell of a lot, doesn't it?
Mar 13, 2013 Caren rated it really liked it
Shelves: children
I really wanted to read this book since I liked the author's Newbery-winning "Moon Over Manifest" so much, however, I nearly put it aside about halfway through. It was slow going in the beginning; very well-written, but it just didn't grab me. I didn't give up on it though, and it picked up considerably in the second half. Ms. Vanderpool is a super talented writer and the book is layered with nuance. It is a Bildungsroman, with the two main characters each searching for answers in a bewildering ...more
Jan 13, 2013 Robert rated it it was amazing
"From the author of Newbery Medal book, "Moon Over Manifest", comes the odyssey-like adventure of two boys' incredible quest on the Appalachian Trail where they deal with pirates, buried secrets, and extraordinary encounters." Delacorte Press

I just finished "Navigating Early". This is an amazing story! Like "Moon Over Manifest" I could not put this book down.

Clare Vanderpool is a masterful story teller. I found this to be an interesting, poignant, layered story with some thing for boys and girl
It’s the end of World War II and 13-year-old Jack Baker’s father is finally coming back home. Unfortunately his return is marred by the death of the sudden wife he left behind and without knowing what to do with a son he barely knows, he sends Jack to a boarding school in Maine.

There, Jack meets Early Aiden, a strange boy who often misses lessons and who can always be found listening to records in his basement room where he also spends time reading the number pi as a story and collecting news cl
Mar 08, 2014 Beth rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Navigating Early has an old-school Newbery feel - not because it's historical fiction, but because it feels like a book that could have been published thirty years ago. It feels like a book I could have read growing up. I didn't know they published books like this anymore.

Navigating Early can be by-the-numbers in terms of plot, in that it's very well-plotted and all its threads tie in neatly. It feels familiar, in a way, but it still manages to be surprising. It's about loneliness and grief and
Jack Baker is leaving his Kansas home to go to boarding school in Maine. His mother has just died and his father is in the Navy. It is WWII and Jack has nowhere else to go. Maine is completely different from Kansas and Jack has a hard time fitting in. He makes friends with weird kid Early, but that doesn't help him with the other kids. During a school break Jack and Early set out on a quest...a quest to find the great bear and prove that Pi (the number 3.14) is alive. Early is convinced that if ...more
Benji Martin
Jul 27, 2013 Benji Martin rated it it was amazing
It might have been better to let this book sink in before attempting to write a review of it. I finished it like five minutes ago, but I decided to go for it. I'll just say it. Right now, on the evening of July 27, this is my favorite book in the world. It could change, but right now, I'm in love with this book. It could have been 2000 pages, and I still would have missed Early a LOT when the book was finished.

Mrs. Vanderpool came out, a few years ago, decided she would take up writing and wrot
Barb Middleton
Apr 27, 2013 Barb Middleton rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical
Clare Vanderpool knows how to craft a satisfying story. Early and Jack become unlikely friends when Jack is sent from Kansas to Maine. Early is a strange boy who likes to listen to certain music on days of the week, sleep in the custodian's workroom, sort jelly beans, and spew facts like Old Faithful. His made-up stories about Pi are strange as well. And not Pi from the "Life of Pi" but Pi as in the number pi, the 3.14 blah-blah-blah, or the number-that-never-ends. Jack doesn't want to listen to ...more
Ann Haefele
Apr 28, 2013 Ann Haefele rated it it was amazing
Wow, simply amazing! I loved Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool, but this story by her is even better. World War II has just ended and Jack is sent from Kansas to a boarding school in Maine after the death of his mother. At this new school, Jack meets Early, "the strangest of boys". In today's time, Early would have been described as autistic. Numbers, especially the number Pi, make sense to Early and he has formed a story about Pi being lost. Early and Jack set out on a quest to find the mi ...more
Oct 31, 2015 Alexa rated it it was amazing
In short, I loved this story: it was captivating, enchanting, and downright magical. I wasn’t so much engrossed in the story as absorbed by it. It made me feel things I hardly knew could be felt, and it just may be my new favorite historical ever. :D
If you'd like to read more of my thoughts on this book, you can find the full review on Verbosity Book Reviews
One of the best YA books I've read in the past year! The thoughtful text has multiple layers. I think a middle school student could read this and get caught up in the adventure aspects, and connect with a few of the deeper reflections. But I think adults would really love this if they would give it a chance.

On the author's website she has a wonderful Madeleine L'Engle quote: "You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write
Apr 20, 2015 Zora rated it it was ok
Shelves: ya-for-boys
This is more fabulist than realistic. Set just after WWII, it follows our half-orphaned narrator (Jack, 13) and his new autistic-savant bud, Early (entirely orphaned) as they leave boarding school and have woodsy adventures that are unlikely in the extreme. At the end, everything tidily connects to everything else, everyone is healed of horrible trauma in a couple hours, and it's all happily ever after.

I didn't like the "Pi" chapters at all and began to skip them. I didn't buy the happy ending.
Jan 19, 2015 Marie rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
It was a nice, light, whimsical read. Reads like a mash up of Mark Twain's "Huckleberry Finn" and "Big Fish" (Daniel Wallace's book and/or the movie starring Ewan McGregor). May not be for people who want their stories to be neat and logical.
Nov 26, 2014 Katie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was truly amazing. This book was the best book I've read in a long time. It has mythical things and it is mysterious. If there was a sequel I would read it to. Early and Jackie made it safely home and they also brought Fisher home.
Mar 14, 2014 Josiah rated it really liked it

The books of a Newbery Medal winner all somehow seem to have more shine after the award has been won, whether the author has been published for decades or is only starting out in the business. For Clare Vanderpool, striking Newbery paydirt in 2011 for Moon Over Manifest meant achieving the highest honor possible in her first effort as a published author. There were no other books of hers sitting on the shelves to suddenly be imbued with the soft, glowing halo of Newbery success, transfusing the
Dec 26, 2012 Karlan rated it really liked it
Shelves: 10-up
This original story in which an adventure was mixed with a story about PI created by a math whiz orphan named Early appealed to me, but may be a hard sell for its intended audience. The legendary chapters slow the action for the tale of two boys hiking and seeking a huge bear. The writing is moving as the boys follow a path to resolve tragic past experiences.
Lisa Reising
Jan 25, 2016 Lisa Reising rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the way this writer pulled me into her story. The characters have interesting challenges, and the themes are deep and intertwined in interesting ways. She also wraps up all the loose fragments into a neat and tidy ending that is satisfying. I can see how this would be a very readable and enjoyable and thought-provoking book for young people. There was a wonderful creative flair in pairing math with fantasy storytelling. For all these points I settled on the 4 stars, feeling sorry I don ...more
Todd Noorman
Oct 07, 2014 Todd Noorman rated it it was amazing
Part "Dead Poets Society," part "The Life of Pi," part anything-by-Gary-Paulsen, wholly original and incredible! Jack Baker's world has turned upside down, topped off by his father moving him from Kansas to Maine, where he's enrolled in an all-boys' school. He fits in just fine, as the boys are very welcoming, but he becomes curious about a boy, Early Auden, who kind of just does what he wants, when he wants (today, Early would be diagnosed as having high-functioning autism). Through a series of ...more
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Clare Vanderpool, recipient of the 2011 Newbery Award, is a resident of Wichita, Kansas. She has a degree in English and Elementary Education and enjoys reading, going to the pool with her children, the television show Monk, and visiting the bookstores in her town.
More about Clare Vanderpool...

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“Sometimes it's best not to see your whole path laid out before you. Let life surprise you...There are more stars out there than just the ones with names. And they're all beautiful.” 33 likes
“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.” 21 likes
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