Pax - Sara Pennypacker and Jon Klassen

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.

While I can't, unfortunately, comment on Klassen's illustrations due to the final art being not included in the Advance Reader's Edition, I can only assume that the quality and beauty of his work will shine through alongside Sara Pennypacker's striking prose.

At first glance, this is a simple story about a boy and his pet being separated after the boy's dad goes off to take part in a war scenario. The boy, Peter, leaves Pax in the woods while being driven off to his grandfather's house while his father returns to a life in the military. While I am somewhat disappointed by the lack of resolution regarding Peter and his grandfather (I will not go into any further detail), the remainder of the story is powerful, poignant, and full of universal truths about war and humanity. Peter and Pax share an incredibly close relationship, but one which is full of complex challenges as they search for each other throughout the novel.

Characters are solidly created, but the setting really makes this book one that will be consumed eagerly by readers. Pax's experiences in the wilderness are just gorgeous; readers will be able to smell the pine, feel the grasses and moss, and taste the cold, refreshing waters of the forest. Pax connects with some other foxes and develops meaningful connections, while Peter develops a relationship with the complicated and insightful Vola, who lives a relatively isolated life.

Aside from some unresolved storylines and a few questions I have about the war in general, within the book, Pennypacker's writing is solid and will appeal to many younger readers, and Klassen's illustrations will be sure to compliment the text at every turn.

Highly Recommended

(Note: This review is from an Advance Reading Copy - Feb. 2, 2016)


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