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Thursday, January 24, 2013


The important people in my life have passed on sayings to me. My grandma always said, "Isn't that the raspberries?" when she heard or saw something funny. In regard to people different from ourselves, my great aunt advised us to "use them up the way they are." 

In Clare Vanderpool's novel Navigating Early, narrator John Baker III includes so many wonderful sayings that were taught to him by his parents.  He explains these sayings at the start of the story. "My father is in the armed services too. Captain John Baker, Jr. He's in the navy. You know what they say. There's two kinds of fellas: navy men and those who wish they were. My father heard that from his father, Rear Admiral John Baker, Sr. I'm the third John Baker in a row. Believe me, I'd rather be a whole of something than just a third. But you get what you get and you are what you are. That saying comes from my mom's side of the family. The civilians. They're the fun side." (pp. 1-2)

His mom told him to "get out of the rain before it washes all the dry off." She also believed this: "There are no coincidences. Just miracles by the boatload." All these sayings make me love the book, but I also love it because of Jack's genuinely honest voice, the ways he learns to deal with his classmates, the story his classmate Early Auden tells about the digits of pi, Early's uncanny ways of knowing what Jack needs, and the way the boys lives become inextricably connected. I also like that he uses the adverb librarianly to describe Miss B.'s manners. 

In the event of revealing too much, I will stop with my reasons for praising it. All of my Maine friends will particularly enjoy the setting!

p.s. These are concrete canoes on display in the engineering building at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, but they were as close as I could get to those rowed by John in the story.


  1. the voice sounds perfectly pitched from the examples you've shared with us. i think this one will make it onto my must read list.

  2. I love the photo. I don't remember sayings from my family, probably because they were in Polish. You are lucky. I love novels that are set in Maine, so I'll look for this one. One YA book that described well, as I recall, Maine's coastal setting was Following Fake Man. Now I'm being reminded of The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg which starts in Maine...which has nothing to do with Navigating Early, but you are sparking my memory. Thank you, Madame Jewel.

  3. I really enjoyed Homer P. Figg. Have you read SMALL AS AN ELEPHANT? That is set in Acadia and other parts of Maine. I will look up FOLLOWING FAKE MAN.