Pax, by Sara Pennypacker, was on and off my TBR several times a few years ago. Although I don’t remember, it was probably when it was first published. Thanks to the GMGR’s Book of the Month, I finally read it.
by Sara Pennypacker
A moving story of the extraordinary friendship between a boy and his fox, and their epic journey to be reunited. Beautifully illustrated by multi-award winner, Jon Klassen. Pax was only a kit when his family was killed and he was rescued by ‘his boy’, Peter. Now the country is at war and when his father enlists, Peter has no choice but to move in with his grandfather. Far worse than leaving home is the fact that he has to leave Pax behind. But before Peter spends even one night under his grandfather’s roof he sneaks out into the night, determined to find his beloved friend. This is the story of Peter, Pax, and their journeys back to each other as war rampages throughout the country (less)
Several things happened at the start of this story which made me wonder why this was considered a children’s book. The author even thought it was suitable for under 8s. I also wondered why it was awarded so many prizes. I think the answer is, because by the time it ends, you forget how awful the start is.
Lots of good things happen in this book, once you get past the first 40% or so. Possibly slightly before. Maybe I was still reeling from them. Maybe I’m sensitive to the huge numbers of once-loved family animals that have been abandoned during the Covid crisis. This book seems to normalise abandonment. I find it wholly abhorrent that a children’s book should not even consider for a moment rehoming or sending to a rescue. You know, a line like ‘I phoned the rescue, but they won’t take him’ would at least indicate some possibility other than ‘dump your pet at the side of the road in the woods, and let him fend for himself (he doesn’t know how and has always lived indoors).’
And it is incredibly confusing to have a war coming from the west in what is definitely north America, and the fighters relying on some sort of mine as a defence. I have no idea what period this is set in, and it doesn’t help.
So, having considered abandoning the book, I read the reviews, found several people of a similar frame of mind to my own among the dozens of gushing 5 stars, and carried on.
It’s not a bad story. It’s a little predictable. The writing is very nice, and the animal personas well done. Vola, the lone human who lives in the woods, carves puppets and tries to work out life one step at a time, is a breath of fresh air. But there are several tropes, and the bus ‘going the right way’ solved a huge number of plot problems. How convenient.
But an award-winner? Not in my book. Maybe I’m just jaded.