NOTE: David Doubilet’s Young Readers event has been postponed to 7 on July 28.
National Geographic photographer David Doubilet has made a career out of curiosity. He was 12 years old when he took his first underwater photograph, making him an expert on navigating early.
At 7 p.m. Thursday in Smith Memorial Library, young people will have an opportunity to learn about how a journalist uses their profession to show the world how we are all connected.
The CLSC Young Readers selection for Week Five, Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool, is a story about adventure driven by the curiosity of a young person. In the wake of World War II and the death of his mother, protagonist Jack is relocated to a boarding school in Maine. He befriends Early, a boy with special talents who shows characteristics of the autistic spectrum. Together, the boys embark on a journey through the unknowns of the Appalachian Trail.
Matt Ewalt, associate director of education and youth services, said Doubilet is a striking example of a person who is driven by a fierce desire to better understand their world and share their discovery with others. That provides a complementary perspective on the changing environments explored by the protagonists in Navigating Early.
“It demonstrates how all of our lives and all of these places are connected,” he said.
Ewalt said as a reader of National Geographic, one of the most profound impacts of the magazine is how a photograph can connect someone to another community.
“We just finished a week on exploring the cosmos and searching for another Earth,” he said. “But there is still so much that we don’t understand about our planet and one another, and that’s what I think journalists can bring with them.”
He said the program will be driven by the curiosity of the readers who join them in the library, but the session will begin with Doubilet discussing his career path and the stories behind some of the work that he has captured while photographing the world’s underwater frontier.
While those National Geographic journalists and experts are here, Ewalt said, it’s important to the Young Readers program to carve out time for them to speak to the youngest members of the community directly — particularly during a week focusing on the responsibilities this generation will have regarding the environment.
Ewalt said there’s value in a book that normalizes a character on the spectrum, especially in a time setting where there would not have been a diagnosis.
“It provides that cultural context that most young readers will understand,” he said. “Because as students in today’s schools, they have come to recognize their fellow classmates, who may be on the spectrum.”
He said the book also successfully celebrates Early’s gifts in a way that is integral to the story itself.
Navigating Early uses the setting of changing environments as a device to show the loneliness the main character experiences in the narrative, he said.
“I think that the themes of loss and loneliness further emphasizes the journey of discovery that the protagonist has in learning in so many ways that they are not alone in the world and how we are connected to those we love and those who we haven’t even met,” Ewalt said.