Tuesday, March 29, 2016


"You going back for your home or for your pet?"
"They're the same thing."

Well I just finished the emotional journey that is Pax, by Sara Pennypacker (Balzer & Bray). Now, I've cried while reading books before -- but this is the first book that had me sobbing during the first few pages. Read it with a box of tissues.

Peter has raised Pax, a red fox, since he was a kit. But now his dad has joined a military operation, and Peter must go live with his grandfather. Peter's dad says there is just no way that Pax can go, too, and the novel opens with the heart-wrenching scene of Peter having to leave his beloved pet -- who is fully tame and has only ever known humans as his family -- by the road. Cue big emotions. 

As each chapter shifts between the perspectives of Peter and Pax, you learn about the sadness and confusion for each of them leading up to and surrounding the abandonment. When Peter arrives at his grandfather's, it hits him that he should have fought harder for Pax, and he sets out on a long journey to find him. Set back by injury, he meets Vola -- a veteran who knows all-too-personally the costs of war -- and she helps him get back on his feet. Simultaneously, Pax is making new acquaintances, himself, and learning how to survive in the war-torn wild. He knows his boy will come back for him, and hope spurs them both on.

With touching, black-and-white illustrations by Jon Klassen sprinkled throughout, the novel does not shy away from exploring the devastating effects of war. And Pennypacker's unique shifts in perspective between the two main characters not only heighten interest in their journeys, but help to shed light on aspects of the other's life. Add to that her ability to approach the story with an understanding of the emotions of one who has dearly loved a pet as family -- as home -- and you have a densely emotional novel.

The film rights to this novel were acquired by Sidney Kimmel Entertainment. I will certainly see the movie, but, again, it's a heavy one. I would liken it to my reading of Where the Red Fern Grows many, many years ago -- a middle-grade novel that will stick with the reader through the ages.

Have you read this book? Let's discuss!


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