Newbery winner Clare Vanderpool says she is happy with latest book

01/09/2013 6:53 AM

01/09/2013 6:56 AM

About two years after winning one of the most prestigious awards in children’s literature, Wichita author Clare Vanderpool has released a follow-up to her debut novel.

“Navigating Early,” the story of a landlocked Kansas boy who is uprooted after his mother’s death and placed in a boarding school in Maine, went on sale nationwide Tuesday.

Like Vanderpool’s first novel, “Moon Over Manifest,” it is middle-grade fiction, intended for ages 9 to 12.

“I’m really happy with the book,” Vanderpool said by phone Tuesday from Philadelphia, the second stop on a nationwide book tour. Other stops include Washington, D.C., Boston, Chicago, Austin and Seattle – with a quick trip home between flights for signings at Wichita bookstores.

“To be honest, I almost wish I was home today” to mark the book’s official publication, she said. “I’m getting all these e-mails from friends saying, ‘Congratulations,’ and of course I love that.

“I love the fact that life at home is still really normal, and I’m very much looking forward to time just celebrating this at home.”

Vanderpool, a mother of four, is the first Kansas author to win the John Newbery Medal, one of the greatest honors in children’s literature. Previous winners include Madeleine L’Engle, Beverly Cleary, Lois Lowry, Jerry Spinelli and Kate DiCamillo.

Sales of Vanderpool’s new book likely will be sparked by the glow of her Newbery Medal. Editors at Amazon.com selected the book as a middle-grade “spotlight pick” forJanuary.

Melissa Fox, a reviewer for Watermark Books in Wichita and a blogger at TheBookNut.com, said fans of “Moon Over Manifest” should enjoy Vanderpool’s follow-up work.

“Clare has a real gift for place, for pulling the reader in and giving a sense of where this story is set, and this one does that so well,” Fox said.

“Here, she gives the sense of a Maine fall. So you’ve got the dampness of the rain and tromping through the deciduous forests and the Maine wilderness, and I just felt like I was there.”

Beth Golay, marketing manager for Watermark Books, said Vanderpool’s new book deserves the early buzz.

“Clare has been writing for a long time, and I feel like it’s past due. She’s a fantastic writer,” Golay said. “The Newbery, of course, is a wonderful award, and this one holds up to it.”

Vanderpool said the hype and anticipation surrounding her second book are “definitely very different than last time, when nobody really knew who I was.

“You know the expectations and you know people are going to compare this to the last book, which is a lot of pressure,” she said.

“Fortunately, I was working on this well before the Newbery was announced, so I was fairly well into the story already before things got crazy.”

The hardest part about writing the new novel, Vanderpool said, was letting go of characters she had grown to love during the six years she worked on “Moon Over Manifest.”

A colleague at Random House “gave me a very helpful piece of advice,” she said. “She said, ‘Writing is all about falling in love with those new characters.’ And that’s really what I kept in the forefront of my mind.”

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