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"Just the sort of book that saves lives by igniting a passion for reading." —James Patterson "Reminiscent of Huckleberry Finn." —The Wall Street Journal A Michael L. Printz Honor Winner ...
"Just the sort of book that saves lives by igniting a passion for reading." —James Patterson "Reminiscent of Huckleberry Finn." —The Wall Street Journal A Michael L. Printz Honor Winner ...
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  • "Just the sort of book that saves lives by igniting a passion for reading." —James Patterson

    "Reminiscent of Huckleberry Finn." —The Wall Street Journal

    A Michael L. Printz Honor Winner

    From the author of Newbery Medal winner Moon Over Manifest comes the odyssey-like adventure of two boys' incredible quest on the Appalachian Trail.

    When Jack Baker's father sends him from his home in Kansas to attend a boys' boarding school in Maine, Jack doesn't know what to expect. Certainly not Early Auden, the strangest of boys. Early keeps to himself, reads the number pi as a story, and refuses to accept truths others take for granted. Jack, feeling lonely and out of place, connects with Early, and the two become friends.

    During a break from school, the boys set out for the Appalachian Trail on a quest for a great black bear. As Jack and Early travel deeper into the mountains, they meet peculiar and dangerous characters, and they make some shocking discoveries. But their adventure is only just beginning. Will Jack's and Early's friendship last the journey? Can the boys make it home alive?

    An ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults Selection
    An ALA-ALSC Notable Children's Book
    A New York Times Editor's Choice
    A New York Times Bestseller
    An Indie Pick
    A Bank Street College of Education Best Book of the Year
    A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
    A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year
    A Booklist Books for Youth Editors' Choice Selection
    A BookPage Best Children's Book
    A Texas Lone Star Reading List Selection
    A Notable Children's Book in Language Arts Book
    A Down East Magazine Best of Maine Book
    A North Carolina Young Adult Book Award Master List Selection
    An Iowa Children's Choice Award Finalist



  • From the book The first time you see the ocean is supposed to be either exhilarating or terrifying. I wish I could say it was one of those for me. I just threw up, right there on the rocky shore.

    We'd flown to Maine a few hours earlier on a military cargo plane. The big beast lurched and rattled the whole way while my father read over some manuals on naval preparedness and coastal fortification. I felt queasy before boarding the plane, was nauseous by the time we were over Missouri, and clutched the barf bag over most of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. The captain—my father, that is, not the pilot—didn't say anything, but I knew he had to be thinking his son would never make it in the navy with such motion sickness. Besides, my green face wouldn't go well against a smart navy uniform. I watched him out of the corner of my eye, still not used to being around him.

    I was nine when he left, and he'd been gone for four years in the European Theater. When I was younger, I thought that was a place where they showed movies. But from what he said, and more from what he didn't say, there was nothing make-believe about it.

    Last spring, the war in Europe started winding down, and my mom and I were looking forward to my dad's homecoming. We'd have our own welcome-home parade, with streamers and cowbells and homemade ice cream. I could imagine my father in his crisp blue uniform, with all his medals for bravery pinned above his breast pocket. He would plant a kiss on my mom's cheek and he'd ruffle my hair like he always used to.

    But when my father came back to Kansas, it wasn't for a parade. It was for a funeral. My mom's. It was a misty day in July. Mom would have liked that. She always said that for her frizzy hair, a steady drizzle was the next best thing to a permanent wave.

    So, long story short, there was no ice cream. My mom wasn't there for him to kiss. I wasn't nine anymore, so he didn't ruffle my hair. And from the start, we seemed less like father and son and more like two strangers living in the same house.

    I guess that shouldn't have been a surprise, though. When he'd left I was a kid reading superhero comic books on the living room floor, waiting for my mom to call me to wash up for supper. When he came back, I was a thirteen-year-old boy with no mom and a dad I barely knew. And I didn't believe in superheroes anymore.

    Anyway, that was how I ended up in a cargo plane heading to Cape Fealty, Maine, and Morton Hill Academy. It was the nearest boys' boarding school to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, where my father was stationed.

    After a bumpy landing, a military jeep drove us to the school. As we approached Morton Hill Academy, I read the words etched into the arched stone entryway. It was the Marine Corps' motto: Semper Fidelis—"Always Faithful."

    We passed through and arrived at the dormitory. Arrangements had been made with Mr. Conrady, the headmaster, to get me enrolled at this late date in August, and for that I should have been grateful. But right then, the only thing I was grateful for was that I would soon be out of that jeep and standing on solid ground.

    Headmaster Conrady greeted my father by his first name and shook my hand so firmly I winced. He led us on a sweeping tour of the campus. Morton Hill Academy was a prep school for boys established in 1870, but from the names of buildings and fields he mentioned, I thought it must have been a military school. He pointed out the two classroom buildings, Lexington Hall and Concord Hall. Lexington was the upper school, for ninth through twelfth grades, and Concord was for sixth, seventh, and eighth. He showed us the dormitories: Fort O'Brien...

About the Author-

  • CLARE VANDERPOOL's debut novel, Moon Over Manifest, won the 2011 Newbery Medal for the most distinguished contribution to children's literature. This second novel will continue to astound readers with Clare's incredible writing prowess.


  • DOGO Books Mrs. Sheehan - I really liked this book because it is very meaningful. It is very meaningful because its about a boy and his mom just died and then he's sent to a new school so he doesn't have any friends. But he saw a kid that he thought was kinda odd but then they became friends. So when his friend goes on a adventure he comes with him...
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from November 19, 2012
    “You have to look for the things that connect us all. Find the ways our paths cross, our lives intersect, and our hearts collide,” Jack’s mother told him before she died. Her words will come to have special meaning for readers spellbound by this atmospheric novel set at the end of WWII from Newbery Medalist Vanderpool (Moon over Manifest). After his mother is buried, 13-year-old Jack—a clear-eyed narrator with a great sense of humor, despite his recent heartbreak—is sent to a Maine boarding school, where he meets an eccentric student named Early Auden, who might today be labeled autistic. Early is obsessed with the number pi and believes that Pi is a boy on an epic journey, and in danger. Jack agrees to accompany Early on his quest to rescue Pi, and as the boys head into the wilderness, their adventures have an eerie resemblance to Early’s stories about Pi, as do Jack and Early’s own sad histories. This multilayered, intricately plotted story has a kaleidoscopic effect, blurring the lines between reality and imagination, coincidence and fate. Ages 9–12. Agent: Andrea Cascardi, Transatlantic Literary Agency.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from November 15, 2012
    Returning to themes she explored so affectingly in Moon Over Manifest (2011), Newbery Medalist Vanderpool delivers another winning picaresque about memories, personal journeys, interconnectedness--and the power of stories. Thirteen-year-old Jack enters boarding school in Maine after his mother's death at the end of World War II. He quickly befriends Early Auden, a savant whose extraordinary facility with numbers allows him to "read" a story about "Pi" from the infinite series of digits that follow 3.14. Jack accompanies Early in one of the school crew team's rowing boats on what Jack believes is his friend's fruitless quest to find a great bear allegedly roaming the wilderness--and Early's brother, a legendary figure reportedly killed in battle. En route, Early spins out Pi's evolving saga, and the boys encounter memorable individuals and adventures that uncannily parallel those in the stories. Vanderpool ties all these details, characters, and Jack's growing maturity and self-awareness together masterfully and poignantly, though humor and excitement leaven the weighty issues the author and Jack frequently pose. Some exploits may strain credulity; Jack's self-awareness often seems beyond his years, and there are coincidences that may seem too convenient. It's all of a piece with Vanderpool's craftsmanship. Her tapestry is woven and finished off seamlessly. The ending is very moving, and there's a lovely, last-page surprise that Jack doesn't know but that readers will have been tipped off about. Navigating this stunning novel requires thought and concentration, but it's well worth the effort. (author's note, with questions and answers, list of resources) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

    COPYRIGHT(2012) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    Starred review from March 1, 2013

    Gr 6-9-When Jack's mother passes away, his military father returns home to pack him up and ship him off to boarding school in Maine. Wading through the emotional trauma of grief and trying to adjust to his new surroundings, Jack feels that he doesn't really fit in anywhere. It is not until he befriends the school's resident outsider that he finds someone who might be able to help him navigate the troubled waters of his future. Early's older brother, Fisher, is a school legend, and the boy refuses to believe that he perished in the war. He sees numbers as having colors and narratives and believes that the story of Pi is also the story that will lead his brother home. Early sets off on an epic quest to find the Great Bear that has been ravaging the countryside as he believes it will lead him to Fisher. When Jack teams up with Early to find a bear, a brother, and an unending number, both boys finally find their way back home. Set just after World War II, this novel, like Vanderpool's Moon Over Manifest (Delacorte, 2010), once again meticulously blends an intricately plotted and layered story line with a fully realized historical backdrop. Interesting characters meander through the boys' adventure, fitting themselves into the pieces of their story as it begins to weave together. Readers will find themselves richly rewarded by this satisfying tale.-Jessica Miller, New Britain Public Library, CT

    Copyright 2013 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • James PattersonThe Washington Post, January 1, 2013:

    "Just the sort of book that saves lives by igniting a passion for reading."

  • Starred Review, School Library Journal, March 2013: "The hallmark of 'Navigating Early' is abundant adventure...The friendship between Jackie and Early and the Morton Hill Academy episodes overall have the flavor of Wes Anderson's delightful summer camp movie, 'Moonrise Kingdom.'"

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    Random House Children's Books
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