Navigating Early

13642663A couple of outsiders get together in this 1940s historical quest tale.  The are both mourning a loss.  Jack, our narrator has lost his mother and while he’s a Kansas landlubber his father has transplanted him to a Maine boarding school known for their boating. There he meets Early, a strange but gifted student, prone to seizures, who hasn’t gotten over the loss of his brother (and the school’s golden boy) to the war in Europe.

The plot is a quest Early leads Jack on into the Appalachian Trail based on a fantastical story Early tells related to the numbers in Pi. (Hey! Yesterday was Pi Day wasn’t it?)  He’s a numerical savant who sees a story in the numbers and “Pi” as a character.  The story is connected to their journey, the strange characters they meet and his brothers own story.

Those looking for diversity in their books will enjoy Early and his obvious and interesting place “on  the spectrum.”   It’s an honestly engaging and beautifully written tale that is a true experience. Vanderpool has an amazing grip on her characters, plot and story and best of all it has a completely satisfying ending.  The narrative voice and writing style are clear and beautiful.  The pacing is well done and while I wasn’t too sure of the “Pi” sections at first, by the end I loved that they were there.

This is a book that will appeal to readers of both historical fiction and adventures.  It reminds me of Richard Peck, Patricia Reilly Giff and the historical family stories of Jenifer L. Holm, like Turtle in Paradise.

I’d say this is more for middle school and up if for no other reason than it would benefit from the emotional maturity as well as a bit of historical background knowledge beyond most fourth grade readers even if was officially “on their reading level.”