Book Review: Pax
Author: Sara Pennypacker
Published by: Balzer + Bay
Publication Date: 2 February 2016
Page Count: 278
Audience: Middle Grades/Young Adult – Fiction
I have always loved foxes, but ever since moving to the UK and seeing them roaming around, that love has increased tenfold. So when I found Pax, a book not only about a fox, but partially written from his perspective, I had to read it. And I’m happy to say it didn’t disappoint.
Pax is a fox and this story is about him and his boy, written from both points of view. Peter has had Pax ever since he found him as a new born pup, the only survivor from his litter. Pax grew up with Peter and his dad, never leaving the comforts of their home. Then one day, Peter and his dad drive Pax out to the woods and leave him there. Pax doesn’t understand why they left and is determined to stay in that exact spot till his boy comes back for him. Peter is left with his grandfather, too old to have a fox underfoot, while his father goes off to war. Before Peter has stayed even a night with his grandfather, he realizes the horrible mistake he made by leaving Pax all alone out in the wild with no idea how to survive. Peter runs away, and starts the 300 mile trek back to where they left Pax. The trek is not easy, and after disaster strikes, he is held up for a little while, trying to recuperate, and with the help of a new friend, learns some things about himself as well. Pax stays by the roadside as much as he can till he meets a couple of foxes who live in the area. They teach him how to be a fox in the wild, hunting, being quiet and fast. Pax has never had so much freedom and space to run and he loves it. But he never forgets about his boy and so he starts his own journey back to the only home he has ever known. His trek isn’t any easier than Peter’s, but they both strive to be reunited.
I loved this story. It was a heart-warming tale of love between a fox and his boy, a boy and his fox companion. The love and the bond they share, and the protectiveness they feel towards each other was a delight to read. You, as the reader, could feel it, and throughout both journeys you are with them, praying they find each other again.
I loved being able to read from Pax’s point of view. It was a unique way to show how a fox lives out in the wild. I know the author takes some privileges (she says so in her acknowledgements at the end of the story), the foxes and other animals are able to communicate by showing pictures in their minds, but they make the story even more personal, showing the enjoyment but also danger of living where they do.
The story opens your eyes to the carelessness and lack of consideration humans have towards the animals that do live in the wild. Animals hunt, hurt, and kill for survival. Humans do it because they see the animals as beneath them, or they just don’t care about them. The book makes you despise humans a bit. There are a few out there, like Peter, who truly do care, and they are the ones that save humanity from themselves.
Pax and Peter both grow up quite a bit, even though the passage of time is only a couple weeks. The situations they get into helps them to understand themselves better, to learn their limits and at times push past them. I loved seeing them grow and evolve, Pax into a real fox, not just a pet; and Peter into the man he will be someday. Peter faces some issues he’s been running from since before he met Pax, and it helps you to understand the special bond he has with the fox.
The ending was touching, but not unexpected. I would have loved an epilogue, maybe a peek into their lives later on in life. Sara Pennypacker has an amazing way with words, able to bring the story to life, and I will definitely be reading more of her books in the future.
One Last Thought: It was hard to tell when and where this story was set. Peter plays baseball for school, loves it, so it makes me think of America, but foxes aren’t as common a roamer as they are in the UK. There is a war going on, but the war is there, almost in the backyard of where Peter and Pax lived; the military laying land mines and trip wires. And it’s a time before cell phones, but landlines are in use. I would hazard a guess as to WWII, but it wasn’t really fought on American soil either. Maybe the author has written it this way on purpose, not supposed to be associated with any real timeline or place in history, but it had me curious throughout the book.
Favorite Thing About This Book: I loved the bond shared between Pax and Peter. As I mentioned before, I love foxes. It makes me giddy inside any time I see one, and I’ve always been curious about working with them at rescue centers or wherever. This book just makes me want that so much more. To be able to be near a fox or actually touch one, to help them.
First Sentence: The fox felt the car slow before the boy did, as he felt everything first.
Favorite Character: Pax
Least Favorite Character: Humans
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.