by Sara Pennypacker
AR Level 5.3, 8 points
I bought this book, because I’d stalked it at the bookstore, and the illustrator (Jon Klassen) happened to be signing copies at the Book Fest in April. He happens to be a really warm, kind man, and not fake like so many other authors or illustrators who come out to meet fans in mass. I also saw that this is a book on the Mock Newbery list, so I figured it would be a good one to try out.
Pax is a red fox and Peter is his boy. Peter is forced to give up his fox, even though he raised Pax from a tiny kit and Pax has never lived in the wild (except for the short time before Peter found him). Peter is angry, which we find out is a family trait, and he sets out to find Pax after his father leaves for war. (Sidenote: I’m really confused about this war. It is a war over water, and apparently in the United States, so I’m guessing it’s totally fictional, but I couldn’t figure out if it’s also symbolic of some other “war.”) With Peter and Pax both on their own in the wilderness and left to fend for themselves, both become wilder, tougher, and are forced into survival mode. Peter runs into a woman named Vola, who not only teaches Peter survival skills, but also helps him come to terms with himself (while he helps her do the same). Pax runs into several foxes, including Bristle and Runt, who teach him how to survive in the wild and be part of the animal world. In the end, both Peter and Pax learn who they are and what is important to them. I won’t spoil the ending, but it is heart-wrenching and heart-warming at the same time.
What I liked about this book was the multiple perspectives. I always like books that show the world from a meaningful perspective. Pax and Peter alternated chapters, and their lives seemed to parallel each other’s, which I found clever and easy to follow.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it was sad at times, and very frustrating! You can feel Pax’s and Peter’s frustrations through the multiple perspectives. I also want to say it was slow, but I think I was the slow one, with it being the last month of school and all. May is never a good time to start a new book when you’re a teacher!
Book 1 of 10 (summer reading challenge!)
Sidenote: have you heard of the Mock Newbery awards? The reading list changes, depending on which website you’re reading, but Pax is on most, as well as Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo. Last year, I read as many of the potential candidates as I could, and almost none of them ended up mentioned. I’m open to your ideas.