Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool
Imagine being abruptly sent to a Maine boarding academy after having lived your entire childhood in Kansas. At the end of World War II, Jack's mother dies and his military father doesn't give him a chance to save any of his mother's belongings. Jack barely can remember the way his mother's voice sounded, but he certainly remembers every word. "You have to look for things that connect us all". At the boarding school, Jack finds a boy who goes by the name of Early Auden. Jack does not consider this boy to be odd - just different. He might be autistic, but they didn't know about autism back then. Early refuses to believe that his brother, a hero from this academy, was killed in the war. Early is on a quest. Does pi and a great bear have some connection to the information of his brother? Jack goes with Early on the Appalachian Trail to find answers.
Early is so insightful. You don't know if Jack is navigating Early or if Jack had to be navigated at an early age. The historical, fictitious, adventurous and scientific elements are cleverly combined to present thoughtful ideas. This is not an easy book, but its cast of characters and their reactions give it a humorous tone.
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*2015 Rebecca Caudill Nominee*