Moon Over Manifest, was awarded the Newbery Medal. I will have to check that book out soon. This novel, Navigating Early, is her second novel and an assurance that we will see more of this fine author. She has a great power for weaving emotion into an absorbing story.
Early Auden is an interesting character. Nowadays, he would be called an autistic savant. But the story is set at the end of World War II, so instead he is labeled "the strangest of boys." The narrator, Jack Baker, has just lost his mother and been placed in a boarding school in Maine. He feels so displaced that the very sight of the ocean turns his stomach and causes him to throw up. But he quickly encounters Early Auden and embarks on a friendship fraught with excitement and adventure. One day, when they find themselves alone at the school, the two set off on a quest as Early searches for Pi, a character he claims has sprung in story form from the number. Early sees numbers with colors and textures and brings forth a whole story to accompany the concept of pi. The boys' adventure leads them on the Appalachian Trail, where they discover pirates, a great black bear, rattlesnakes, and an assortment of odd individuals.
As I read, I felt compelled to suggest this story to a close friend of mine. She is a math teacher who lost her own mother at an early age. Plus, she has two boys who would clearly enjoy the adventures within this tale. I believe she will come to love Early Auden, with all his eccentricities, and will be moved by his story.
Personally, I did struggle with the adventure waxing out of proportion. It seemed the trials loomed over-the-top. But, I did still really enjoy the book and will happily recommend it to other readers, especially those with young boys. It has a quest, a strange boy, constellations, dealings with death and displacement, pirates, a gigantic black bear, an ancient woman pining her missing son, and a missing war hero. It stirs emotions and draws the reader into the story. Plus, I thoroughly enjoyed the section at the end of the book, where the author comments on the story idea and the research behind it. This section also contains a fact or fiction quiz concerning the number pi. This was a highly enjoyable read.