Finished March 24
Pax by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Jon Klassen
This children's novel is aimed at the 10-14 age group. As the book begins, Peter is travelling in the car with his father and his pet fox Pax. Peter found the fox near death when he was a very young kit, and has had him for five years. But things are changing rapidly in Peter's life, with his father going off to war and leaving Peter with his grandfather, and when his father tells him he must release Pax to the wild, he doesn't believe he has a choice. It is an act that he regrets quickly, and that he is determined to make right.
Pax is bewildered by his situation. Why did Peter leave him, when will he return? As darkness falls and he still waits for Peter to return, he feels afraid in the large world that he is in. When hunger also begins to come for him, he doesn't know how to find food. As Pax comes across others of his kind, he must figure out how to act and what he must do to survive.
This book follows Pax and Peter in alternating chapters. The two feel a strong connection to each other and yearn for each other. As Peter moves forward, he meets a woman, Vola, who has her own story of war and its costs. Peter has not had a female figure in his life since his mother died before he found Pax, and Vola has not had anyone in her life for a long time. As the two get to know each other, they also learn the truth about themselves.
Pax is also forced to learn, from the world around him, from the wild foxes he meets who've had bad experiences with humans, from the men he sees working nearby.
This is a story about the costs of war, costs seen in many different guises. The illustrations are wonderful and evocative, a good fit for the story.