Tag Archives: Narrative

Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool

navigatingearly

Navigating early by Clare Vanderpool.

Hardcover, 320 pages
Published  2013 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
 (ISBN13: 9780385742092)
From the publisher:

At the end of World War II, Jack Baker, a landlocked Kansas boy, is suddenly uprooted after his mother’s death and placed in a boy’s boarding school in Maine. There, Jack encounters Early Auden, the strangest of boys, who reads the number pi as a story and collects clippings about the sightings of a great black bear in the nearby mountains.

Newcomer Jack feels lost yet can’t help being drawn to Early, who won’t believe what everyone accepts to be the truth about the Great Appalachian Bear, Timber Rattlesnakes, and the legendary school hero known as The Fish, who never returned from the war. When the boys find themselves unexpectedly alone at school, they embark on a quest on the Appalachian Trail in search of the great black bear.

But what they are searching for is sometimes different from what they find. They will meet truly strange characters, each of whom figures into the pi story Early weaves as they travel, while discovering things they never realized about themselves and others in their lives.

What did I think about this book?

I LOVED THIS BOOK and thought about it long after I had closed the pages. The writing is beautiful and there is depth in the plot and characters…but I wonder if the story could have been developed even further and possibly published as an adult novel? This is a tricky review to write and I am thinking about how hard a “sell” this might be to my students (My oldest are Year 6 – equivalent to 5th Grade in the USA).

So many books these days have action from the start and many readers rely on that to get them hooked. Part of my role in developing readers is to get them to see the value of a strong build up in a story i.e. getting to know the characters, the setting, the back story – before reaching the action. I know that there will be students in my school community who aren’t mature enough readers to persevere past the first chapter or two. I found the start slow and whilst I am well aware that “good things take time” my reading enjoyment was punctuated with fears about whether or not I could get anyone to read this. Once Early and Jack have left the school and are on their adventure, the pace picks up considerably and there is action and adventure aplenty. Unfortunately it’s almost too much happening too soon and so many dangerous and unsettling things happen in quick succession.  Whilst the action and adventure ties in with the parallel story about pi, it did stretch credibility somewhat.

This isn’t a title I would book talk with a whole year level, however I believe this would be valuable and moving read aloud to a group from Year 6-Year 9. Some of my more thinking and mature students will want to read this, but I would prefer to show them the book and talk about it individually . It  is likely I will offer this copy to our Middle/Senior library for their collection as I am confident more of their students will enjoy it.  As Kirkus Reviews said “Navigating this stunning novel requires thought and concentration, but it’s well worth the effort.

Reviews – I’m pasting links to these, because all of them had insightful yet differing views on this book:

Travis Jonker 100scope notes:

Kirkus Reviews:

NY Times:

Publisher’s Weekly:

Teach Mentor Texts:

Don’t judge a boy by his face… ‘Wonder’ by R.J. Palacio

A book that has made a huge impact since it’s debut and release in early 2012 – I think it is a stimulating story for teaching about the PYP attitude ‘Empathy’ and encouraging Kindness. This is a powerful narrative – brilliant for reading aloud.

wonder-cover

Wonder by R.J. Palacio, Published by Random House, 2012. Paperback available in NZ book stores rrp: $19.99

Synopsis:

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He’s about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances?

Reviews & Praise (source author website):

Kirkus Reviews December 2011: “After being homeschooled for years, Auggie Pullman is about to start fifth grade, but he’s worried: How will he fit into middle-school life when he looks so different from everyone else?”

“Palacio divides the novel into eight parts, interspersing Auggie’s first-person narrative with the voices of family members and classmates, wisely expanding the story beyond Auggie’s viewpoint and demonstrating that Auggie’s arrival at school doesn’t test only him, it affects everyone in the community. Auggie may be finding his place in the world, but that world must find a way to make room for him, too. A memorable story of kindness, courage and wonder.”

Publisher’s weekly: “…Though he has some expectedly horrible experiences at school, Auggie has lucked out with the adults in his life–his parents love him unconditionally, and his principal and teachers value kindness over all other qualities. While one bully manages, temporarily, to turn most of Auggie’s classmates against him (Auggie likens this to becoming the human equivalent of “the Cheese Touch,” a clever Diary of a Wimpy Kid reference), good wins out. Few first novels pack more of a punch: it’s a rare story with the power to open eyes–and hearts–to what it’s like to be singled out for a difference you can’t control, when all you want is to be just another face in the crowd. “ 

Book trailer:

Author interview:  R.J. Palacio talks about her inspiration and has some ideas for teachers wanting to use the book trailer as a provocation for discussion:

What do I think about this book?

I am rather late highlighting this book – when it came out last year I wasn’t working as a children’s librarian and I hadn’t started this blog. I read it late last year as a copy was held in the Middle School section of my library. Recently my family listened to the audio book as we made a road trip around the South Island of New Zealand. I was incredibly moved by the book when I read it and again, as my whole family aged 10-49 were enthralled by the story (there were times we all had tears rolling down our cheeks – the next minute we would be laughing out loud). It is both sad and uplifting at the same time – and the author never lets things get too maudlin, the sadness is tempered with just the right amount of humor. This is one of those memorable stories that stays with you weeks and months after reading it, probably for life!

‘Choose Kind’ will be the focus of the first Library display I make this year. I would love to inspire all my students to start the year thinking about others and how to treat everyone in their lives, and everyone they meet, with kindness and caring. This book has a powerful anti-bullying message. Recommended for ages 9/10 through to adult!

CHOOSE KIND CAMPAIGN:

Blog at Tumblr

Teacher resources:

http://www.randomhouse.com/teachers/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Wonder_EG_WEB.pdfReviews:

Teach mentor texts post on Wonder: http://www.teachmentortexts.com/2012/04/wonder.html#axzz1rpDrD0mC

Author website for RJ Palaciowww.http://rjpalacio.com