Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Children's Book Review: Pax

by Mollie McFarland, Children's Librarian, Springville Road Regional Branch Library

Pax
Sara Pennypacker

Peter's best friend is a fox named Pax. After the death of his mother, Peter discovered the orphaned kit in the woods near his home. The two became as close as brothers as they grew up and learned to cope with the loss of their respective parents. However, a big change is in store. War is brewing and Peter's father is leaving to fight in the military. Now, Peter's only caregiver is his strict and humorless grandfather. A man who would not consent letting Peter keep his pet. Before Peter embarks on the long journey to his grandfather's house, he is forced to release Pax into the wild. Pax is totally unprepared to live on his own and Peter is driven hundreds of miles away against his will. Before a day passes at his grandfather's house, Peter embarks on an impossible journey to reunite with Pax. Alternating chapters show the boy and fox's point of view as they struggle through dangers, injuries, and setbacks to reunite, against all odds.

This is a story about love, war, loyalty, duty, friendship, and loss. It's full of heavy topics that imbue the reader with a sense of grave importance. Though it is a middle grade book, it will resonate with older readers. Many characters suffer injustices and injuries that open way for discussions about PTSD, grief, disability, and war. Don't get me wrong! This is an inspiring story about independence and strength too. But it is tempered with a harsh dose of reality that is often absent in books for young readers. The destruction of the natural world is in plain view as the story illustrates the horrors of war from the perspective of wild animals.

This book is full of lessons and realities that are certain to leave an impression on readers for years to come. Boy and fox rise to meet the challenge, but their growth is hard won. This is not a book that is soon forgotten. It will leave a stamp on your heart much like Where the Red Fern Grows, Island of the Blue Dolphins, and Shiloh.

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