Navigating Early Summary & Study Guide

Clare Vanderpool
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Navigating Early Summary & Study Guide Description

Navigating Early Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool.

“Navigating Early” by Claire Vanderpool is the story of Jack Baker, a 13-year-old who is a happy-go-lucky kid living in a small town in Kansas when tragedy strikes. His mother dies unexpectedly from a brain aneurysm. Jack suffers the requisite guilt of a 13-year-old who thinks he if hadn’t been mad at his mother that night, she could have lived or he could have saved her. Jack’s father is a naval captain. He left for duty in the European theater during World War II when Jack was nine. Four years later he returns not to celebrate the end of his tour of duty but to bury his wife.

Jack barely saw his father over the last four years. He doesn’t know him; he’s like a stranger to him. The memories that he does have of his father and his relationship with him are not good ones. His father is remote and emotionally distant. He treats Jack more like a recruit that a son. Jack refers to him as “The Captain” and his father signed a letter to Jack as “Captain Baker.” Jack was extremely close to his mother who was emotionally open to Jack and who had a laid back and forgiving style compared to the stringent, militaristic persona that his father portrays. But after her death, all they had was each other. Captain Baker really didn’t know what to do with his son. He was aware of the dysfunctional aspect of their relationship but he never discussed it with Jack.

Captain Baker is stationed at Portsmouth, Maine. So he decides to enroll Jack in a boys’ boarding school, Morton Hill, in Maine, so that at least they will be geographically close if not close in any other way. Jack had pleaded to be allowed to stay in Kansas and live with his grandfather but Captain Baker’s mind was made up. Jack is less than thrilled when he arrives at Morton Hill. He expects not to like it or have any friends. He’s miserable because everything reminds him of the mother he no longer has.

Jack doesn’t do well at rowing which is Morton Hill’s premiere sport. Early Auden who is in Jack’s class is an odd yet very bright little boy. The two begin to form a friendship although they are nothing alike. As it turns out, they do have profound things in common – great losses and the need to work their way through the accompanying grief.

Although Early was notified by no less than the U.S. Army that his big brother, Fisher, was killed in action in France, he is not easy to convince. He does some investigation and research himself and keeps his eyes open to all possibilities and comes to the conclusion that Fish is alive and is determined to find him. Early conflates his missing brother with the story of the star Polaris in the Ursa Major constellation. Polaris’ mother calls her son Pi. He wants to earn the name, Polaris, so she sets him off on a quest to do so. She tells him to follow the stars, the Great Bear, but he loses sight of the constellation and becomes a wandering, lost soul. Early is sure that same thing has happened to Fish – he’s a lost soul like Pi, but Early is certain he can find him.

Early is annoyed that a professor has theorized that the number pi 3.14 is not infinite as most believe. Early won’t buy it, because if pi ends that would mean the Pi and Fish are dead. Early invites Jack to go on the quest to find Fish. Although Jack thinks Early is delusional, he has nothing else going on so he goes with him.

The two boys have an adventure of a life time. The face danger, death and unimagined perils but they prevail mainly because of Early’s belief that his brother is alive and he can find him. In the end, the boys survive the worst peril of all – personal loss. Early is right about pi and is right about Pi. Captain Baker opens up emotionally and becomes the father that Jack needs.

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