Pax is a fox, rescued when he was a tiny kit after his family was killed. Peter, his “boy,” rescued him. He’s lived in domesticity with Peter ever since, and the two are inseparable. But war is coming, and Peter’s father has enlisted, which means Peter is being shipped off to live with his grandfather. Pax is left by the side of the road, hundreds of miles from where Peter ends up. Determined to make it back to each other, each one embarks on a journey of self-discovery.
Sara Pennypacker’s moving story about a boy and his fox is a heartbreaking page-turner of a novel. Interspersed in the beautiful prose are black and white illustrations from Jon Klassen, and these help bring the story right off the page. Told in alternating chapters by both Peter and Pax, the story remains grounded in reality even though one of the book’s narrators is a fox.
Beautifully paced and artfully told, Pennypacker allows the reader insight into the horrors of war not through the eyes of Peter, but through those of Pax, who sees woodland creatures blown up by mines. The underscoring of how far-reaching the terrors of war can be is done successfully, with subtlety and grace. Because so few of the characters in the story are actually named, the book feels very much like a fable.
Every moment in this novel feels real, and authentic, and emotionally resonant. It’s a sad story that is also full of hope, and it is one that begs to be read by young readers as well as adults. Kids will want to talk about this one, so be ready for hard questions about life and death, war, and much more.
Highly, highly recommended.
Pax by Sara Pennypacker. Balzer + Bray: 2016. Library copy.