The following review of 2018 Mathical Honor Book Navigating Early by author Clare Vanderpool was submitted by Mathical Selection Committee co-chair Rebecca Goldin.
Navigating Early is a beautiful and unusual story of a friendship between two boys at a boarding school in Maine toward the end of World War II. Their friendship centers around each boy’s individual story of loss, pain, and growth during a historically tumultuous time. The book provides a casual affirmation of the use of “proof” and “exploration” in the pursuit of a mathematical passion. One of the boys views his life’s trajectory and calling through the expansive digits of pi, creating a fantastical storyline that drives an unexpected adventure through the wilderness in search of a lost brother. The other boy’s emotional growth carries him into the wilderness as well, as he searches for his personal strengths and values and struggles against his feelings of isolation.
The book’s poetic language creates a vivid and stunning picture of the physical surroundings, while painting truths of these boys’ emotional lives that ring universal and yet immensely personal. As the two boys embark on their climactic adventure motivated by the first boy’s story about the number pi and the second boy’s desire for personal redemption, interwoven truths unfold through a captivating and convincing story.
By Clare Vanderpool
Random House Children’s Books, 2013
2018 Mathical Honor Book, Grades 6-8
Rebecca Goldin co-chairs the Mathical Book Prize selection committee. She is Professor of Mathematical Sciences at George Mason University and the director of STATS, dedicated to improving statistical literacy in journalism.