I wasn’t sure about picking up the latest book by Sara Pennypacker, author of the Clementine series. I knew of the series and never read any but was interested in reading a book about the relationship between and boy and his pet fox. It was getting some buzz from the children’s librarians at the library and so I jumped on the bandwagon and got my name on the hold’s list.
Pax doesn’t elude to a specific time in history nor does it mention any particular war. Was it intentional since war is unfortunately universal? Peter’s father enlists and he is sent to live with a grandfather he barely knows. Instead of bringing his rescued pet fox with and grew close to for five years, he has to abandon him in the woods. That scene starts the harsh and tense-filled story of leaving a loved one behind. The rest of the story is flipped back and forth narrated by both Peter and Pax as they try to reconnect while making sense of a new world they are thrust into.
My favorite parts were narrated by Pax, not surprisingly. Never having to fend for himself, get his own food and become acquainted with other animals in the woods made for a gorgeous and poetic read. Pennypacker’s prose didn’t lack imagery and wrote beautiful sentences that focused on themes of loss, love, loyalty and sacrifice. The message that war is destructive to all of those involved wasn’t heavy handed but definitely a theme throughout.
As an adult, the story could be easily picked apart and I am curious as to what a 12-year-old would think, for some of the elements are violent and upsetting. Peter’s point-of-view narrations weren’t my favorite but the depiction of anger and loss felt appropriate and not condescending. I also didn’t love the ending but it felt right.
The relationship between an animal and a child has been written many times in children’s books. It’s a storyline that can easily feel manipulative but predict this will be a book that is talked about by children and adults for years to come.
Pax was written by Sara Pennypacker and illustrated by Jon Klassen. It is 304 pages, published by Balzer and Bray and I picked up a copy at my local library.