consuming, sharing, and reviewing books for children
Newbery Medal winner Clare Vanderpool succeeds once again in executing a novel full of perspectives and rich characterization. Jack Baker, a Kansas boy at heart, finds himself at boarding school in Maine shortly after the death of his mother. Clearly an outsider, Jack acknowledges and accepts his difficulty finding friends, but quickly becomes intrigued with Early Auden, an unsual boy set in his ways so to speak.
Overtime, a friendship develops, and Early’s determination to track the Great Appalacian Bear and find his brother “The Fish,” whom is presumed dead after WW II, leads them on an unforgettable adventure through the Appalacian Mountains. Throughout their journey, Early recounts the allegorical tale of pi, which seems eerily and effortlessly connected to their own struggles and adventures.
This is a quest in the true sense of the word…an adventure to prove the impossible, a journey which leads to an ultimate understanding of the truth.
Early’s quirkiness, stubborness, and loyalty really drive this book to the finish. (For some reason, I was reminded of Owen Meaney over and over again.) The overall allegory was well done, and Vanderpool seems to be an expert at combining stories fluidly; however, the ending was a little rushed, and I never really felt the climax I was expecting. I will be curious to hear how children respond to this title, specifically whether or not they are able to grasp the full meaning of pi’s story and how it relates to Jack and Early’s journey (both literal and figurative).
As a side note, in regards to the already mentioned controversy about the number pi (i.e. it will never end), I strongly believe the impossibility is the point. Early consistently believes in the impossible, and so the impossibility of pi actually ending is just another dimension of the story…in my opinion. (The fact or fiction section in the back also seems to indicate her intention.)