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Pax Hardcover – February 2, 2016
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From School Library Journal
“Moving and poetic.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
“Pennypacker’s expert, evenhanded storytelling reveals stunning depth in a relatively small package.” (Booklist (starred review))
“In an exceptionally powerful, if grim story, Pennypacker does a remarkable job of conveying the gritty perspective of a sheltered animal that must instantly learn to live in the wild.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“A startling work of fiction that should be read-and discussed-by children and adults alike.” (School Library Journal (starred review))
“An emotional, thought-provoking story of conflict, loyalty, and love.” (The Horn Book)
“Sometimes an author steps aside from a popular series to break new ground, as evidenced in this arresting novel, at once a wilderness adventure about survival and a philosophical foray into big questions.” (San Francisco Chronicle)
“Pennypacker’s elegant language and insight into human nature spin a fable extolling empathy above all. By the novel’s poignant ending, Pennypacker has gently made the case that all of us should aspire to that view—children and adults alike.” (Time magazine)
“Searingly honest and heartbreakingly lovely, Pax is, quite simply, a masterpiece.” (Katherine Applegate, Newbery Award-winning author of The One and Only Ivan)
“A sweeping and enchanting wartime story of trust, loyalty, betrayal, and the love of a boy for the fox he’s raised since he was a kit. A master storyteller, Pennypacker leads the reader along a path of shifting hopes to the story’s heart-wrenching conclusion.” (Ann M. Martin, Newbery Honoree, author of Rain Reign)
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Set in an unidentified country during an unspecified time, “Pax” serves to remind readers that war and destruction may affect anyone – or anything. Twelve-year old Peter has cared for his pet fox, “Pax”, for five years. Orphaned as a kit, “Pax” is now as domesticated as any wild animal can be; he has never had to survive in the wild. “…distrust is no match for kindness administered consistently and unmeasured …”
Having enlisted in the army, Peter’s father takes his son to live with his grandfather and demands that Peter release “Pax” back into the wild. Knowing Peter would not abandon him “Pax” waits patiently for his return. “…Pax would stay …ignore all temptations …until his boy came for him …” Haunted by his belief he has betrayed “Pax”, Peter leaves his grandfather’s home to recover his pet. A broken leg, an encounter with an amputee-veteran whose unnamed war occurred twenty years previously, and a realization – by both Peter and “Pax” – that each must be true to his own nature creates an emotional, poignant story that will touch your heart.
Writing in the third person voice, Sara Pennypacker alternates the focus of “Pax” between developments affecting Peter and those in which “Pax” learns what it is to be a fox. Each chapter remains true to the focal character. In Peter’s, the reader learns about his life and his past. "…if he could visit the kind-eyed therapist, he’s smash those toy cars …Just to make everybody see …” The reader also watches Peter grow in his understanding of himself and of others. Talking to his benefactor about her war experience, Peter empathizes with her emotional state and begins to formulate a plan that will free her from her self-imposed exile. In Pax’s chapters, the narrative does not humanize the animals but remains realistic when it details the actions and responses to their surroundings. By Sara Pennypacker doing so, those portions of the narrative seems less fictitious and more like an appealing nature documentary. In both characters’ chapters, the horrors and the impact of war overshadow the narrative.
One of Jon Klassen’s drawings, shown on pages 164 and 165, is quite memorable. The shadowing and use of contrasting white ”rain” against the darker background drawing is the strongest in terms of atmosphere and locale.
“Pax” is a novel that will touch your heart. It is suitable for the target age group as well as anyone who loves an outstanding story. I recommend that parents or grandparents read “Pax” before sharing it with younger, advanced readers or with those in the target age group who may be very sensitive.
However some distance in to the book had me wondering how old a child would read this story and not be upset by events transpiring. I went back to see the 'suggested' age for children and thought that kid must have a strong support system. The subject matter almost had me stop reading because I wasn't sure if this ended bad that I wanted to know.
Perhaps I misread the blurb, but I assumed it was about a father joining the military and not that war was rampant where the story took place.
Top international reviews
But I was expecting tears and heartache and a Homeward Bound style adventure in which we see Pax and Peter united. I got none of that. In fact, much of the book is static, staying in the same place once Peter stays with Vola - a hermit style woman ex-military living all alone.
I couldn't quite get my head around when this book was set. It is set during a war - and I couldn't get the American Civil War out of my head, but then Pennypacker mentions car radios and other modern lifestyle items which really makes that impossible.
I'm not sure if this is one of those books really aimed at Adults wrapped up in child wrapping paper. It certainly felt so.
Who were all the 'war sick ' fighting and why, doesn't fit with America. I would have enjoyed it more if this aspect hadn't kept niggling away in the background.
We are Lucky enough to have a old fox coming in our garden late evening. This book made a big difference.
The pace of the book was slow at times but worth keeping with it.
I would recommend it to kids who like foxes.