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.
"This multilayered, intricately plotted story has a kaleidoscopic effect, blurring the lines between reality and imagination, coincidence and fate." (Publishers Weekly)
"Newbery Medal-winning author Vanderpool's sharp, honest narrative, sparkling with the stars of the night sky, pieces together an elaborate, layered plot with precision, weaving multiple threads into a careful, tidy conclusion perfectly suited for those, like Jack and Early, who want to believe." (Booklist)
"Returning to themes she explored so affectingly in Moon Over Manifest, Newbery Medalist Vanderpool delivers another winning picaresque about memories, personal journeys, interconnectedness - and the power of stories." (Kirkus Reviews)
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Reads Like a Newberry
Great Character Study