Thursday, March 16, 2017

Pax (Sara Pennypacker)

Sara Pennypacker
Balzer + Bray
Fiction, YA General Fiction
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: Young Peter and Pax, the fox he raised from an orphaned kit, are inseparable... until Peter's dad leaves to fight in the war, and forces the boy to abandon the fox on a remote roadside. But Peter can't stop thinking about his friend. Certain the fox will die without him, he runs away from home.
Pax can't understand what happened; one moment, he was playing with his human Peter, and the next the boy disappeared. Surely he'll be back soon... but, in the meantime, the fox must figure out how to survive. He never even learned to hunt or seek water on his own, and meeting other foxes - who resent the stink of human on his fur - only makes him feel more a stranger... but something about the wild calls to him.
Meanwhile, the war creeps ever closer, a faceless force that may destroy the boy, the fox, and their innocent world forever...
With illustrations by Jon Klassen.

REVIEW: Set in a nebulous yesteryear in the shadow of an unspecified war, Pax has the feel of a classic children's novel, a seemingly-simple tale full of heart, pain, truth, and depth. Peter struggles with memories of a violent, painful past, worried about how much of his sometimes-abusive father he already sees in himself, and the things - like abandoning Pax - that he's already done. Pax, meanwhile, must learn what it means to be a fox and an animal, even as he reconciles his love for Peter with the cruelty all humans, even his beloved boy, are capable of rendering. The anthropomorphism is kept to a minimum; animals "talk" not so much in words but postures, scents, and shared "images" of memories. Both boy and fox must do their own growing up, figuring out their own places in a world that's often fickle and cruel, but in which they each have more power than they realize to make their own lives. Pennypacker never tries too hard to make her points, letting the story make them for her. I can certainly see this book becoming a classic, one well remembered by children of today that they will happily share with the children of tomorrow.

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