by Clare Vanderpool
a 300 page quest for the largest bear in the Appalachian woods of Maine – at least that what they say at first…
Lost, alone and without bearings. That’s how Jack Baker finds himself when his dad, Captain John Baker, Jr., leaves him at Morton Hill Academy for boys in Cape Fealty, Maine. It the day before most boys will arrive and Jack has time to wander and wonder at his new life. This is a life outside of Kansas, a life without the gentle guidance of his mom, a life filled with questions and regret.
Full of all this emptiness, Jack goes to the beach where he sees a boy filling sand bags as though he is trying to hold the ocean back from the shore. From that moment loneliness and loss bind them. Jack is new to everything in the school. Unfamiliar with this life he has to navigate through a series of challenges and just when Jack is sure he will fail – there is Early, teaching him guiding him, telling him with an odd certainty what to do.
Early, clearly brilliant, doesn’t always go to class often. He has an odd presence that the rest of the boys tolerate, but seldom include. He lives in a basement workshop that was once the custodian’s room. He has a jar of jellybeans for sorting, a sequence of music he listens to and an uncanny way of understanding numbers. They tell him a story through their shapes and colors.
Pi, 3.14, in fact, launches their quest. Dr. Stanton a famed mathematician has put forth a theory that Pi will end. Ones have stopped appearing in its sequence and he posits that eventually all the digits will disappear. Early does not, cannot believe this is true. The numbers tell Early that Pi is on a quest to discover his destiny and find his family. On fall break, Early embarks on his own quest down the Kennibec River and across parts of the Appalachian Trail in search of the great black bear, his lost family and his place in the world. Jack goes along.
Navigating Early is a quest through loss and longing, challenge, heartache and aching loneliness. You’ll navigate your way through each step of the journey, returning home with hope and wonder, relief, kindness and the best of all friends, “Early Auden, that strangest of boys.”