Illustrator: Jon Klassen
Published by Balzer + Bray on February 2nd 2016
Source: I borrowed this book from my local library.
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Pax was only a kit when his family was killed, and “his boy” Peter rescued him from abandonment and certain death. Now the war front approaches, and when Peter’s father enlists, Peter has to move in with his grandpa. Far worse than being forced to leave home is the fact that Pax can’t go. Peter listens to his stern father—as he usually does—and throws Pax’s favorite toy soldier into the woods. When the fox runs to retrieve it, Peter and his dad get back in the car and leave him there—alone. But before Peter makes it through even one night under his grandfather’s roof, regret and duty spur him to action; he packs for a trek to get his best friend back and sneaks into the night. This is the story of Peter, Pax, and their independent struggles to return to one another against all odds. Told from the alternating viewpoints of Peter and Pax.
I picked up a library copy of Pax without knowing much about it. I admit, that gorgeous cover completely drew me in. Told in two alternating points of view (a boy and a fox), this middle-grade novel tackles loss in an age-appropriate way. A striking portrayal of war and its far-reaching and lingering effects, Pax gently encourages empathy and critical thinking, and shows how the line between “good guys” and “bad guys” isn’t as clear as one might think (or as one might have been told).
Definitely screen this book if you have a sensitive child (or one that’s on the younger end of the suggested audience of 8-12 years old). C is almost 7 now, and will listen to books “older” than her age, but I could tell pretty early on that the way the themes in Pax play out would have been a little too much for her.
The ending was perfect—exactly what it needed to be—but it crushed me.
Pax is also a coming-of-age story, for both the boy and his fox. There is so much beauty within these pages! Jon Klassen’s charcoal illustrations are stunning, and Sara Pennypacker’s descriptive writing reminds me a lot of E. B. White’s. I like seeing children’s books that aren’t afraid of leaning more on the character-driven side of things. There’s a nice balance here: Things happen, there is action, but there are plenty of moments where you find yourself still and quiet, taking in the scenery. Highly recommend this title.