Pennypacker, Sara. Pax. Il. Jon Klassen. .Balzer & Bray/HarperCollins, 2016. $16.99. 276p. ISBN 978-0-06-237701-2. Ages 9-13. P9Q8
Set in an unnamed country at war, the book shows how children pay for the injustices of adult actions as 12-year-old Peter is separated from his pet of five years, Pax the fox. Because Peter’s mother has died, his father, who volunteers for the military, takes him to live with his grandfather over 200 miles distant from their home and abandons the pet to the wild. Chapters alternate between Pax’s struggle to adapt to a strange environment and Peter’s attempt to hike back to rescue his friend despite a broken leg. Details of the sheltered animal forced into a hostile world can be very grim while Peter deals after his injury with Vola, a veteran who lives in isolation after she lost her leg in war. Throughout his relationship with Vola, Peter learns more about war and the fact that his father chose to leave him behind. Although the information that Pennypacker gives about the lives of foxes has been well researched, the relationship between fox and boy may be less so because the feral nature of foxes that keep them from being tamed. Peter’s ability to survive the long walk with a broken leg may also be somewhat less than realistic. Yet animal lovers will be entranced by the story, and Pennypacker communicates her message well. The few illustrations from classic illustrator Jon Klassen add to understanding the difficulties that boy and fox face.
May 2016 review by Nel Ward.