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A Book Review of “Pax” by Sara Pennypacker

Author:

Rose is an enthusiastic writer and reader who publishes articles most Thursdays. She enjoys all book genres, especially drama and fantasy.

What’s the Big Deal?

Published in 2016 by bestselling author Sara Pennypacker and illustrated by the award-winning Jon Klassen, Pax is a masterpiece of a book that is “destined to become a beloved classic.” The book is on the National Book Award Longlist and was an Amazon Best Book of the Year, and I can say from experience that teachers of children everywhere are bound to have this book on their shelves. Praised by authors like Katherine Applegate (The One and Only Ivan) and Ann M. Martin (Rain Reign), Pax is a tale beloved by anyone who reads it.

“Pax” by Sara Pennypacker

“Pax” by Sara Pennypacker

Plot Summary

Peter is a 12-year-old boy, and Pax is his fox. Ever since Peter rescued him as a kit, the pair have been inseparable, and Peter loves him like a child loves his dog. They’re two halves of a whole, always together—that is, until Peter’s father goes to war, and demands that Peter live with his grandfather and leave his fox hundreds of miles away in the woods on the side of the road.

It takes hardly any time for Peter to realize that this isn’t what he wants—he simply can’t live without his pet. So he packs some things into his backpack, and sets off on a long journey to find Pax. Meanwhile, Pax is learning the ropes of woodland life. He meets a wise fox named Gray, who helps him on his journey going south, towards home, as well as a younger vixen named Bristle and her brother, Runt.

Both Pax and Peter are affected with detours and problems as they aim to find each other, the biggest for Peter being when he breaks his foot. Having accidentally trespassed onto private property, he meets Vola, a wounded and gruff woman who was a soldier in another war. Together, they work until Peter is well enough to continue on his journey with a pair of homemade crutches, curating a loving relationship along the way.

Eventually, after nearly two weeks of trouble and toil on both Peter and Pax’s parts, Peter finds his fox. They have a joyous reunion, but it is brief—because just as he and his pet are a family, Peter realizes, Pax has found a family of his own with Bristle and Runt, who are watching them warily from the sidelines. So in the end, Peter completes his adventure, but in a way that not even he, nor Pax, could have predicted.

Quick Facts

  • Author: Sara Pennypacker
  • Pages: 276
  • Genre: Children’s adventure
  • Ratings: 4/5 Goodreads, 5/5 Common Sense Media
  • Release date: February 2, 2016
  • Publisher: HarperCollins

To Read or Not to Read?

I recommend this book if:

  • You’ve read and enjoyed books such as The Underneath by Kathi Appelt, Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin, or The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
  • You like books or movies about people and their pets, and the journeys they go on to find each other again
  • You have experience with war or the effects of it
  • You or your kids have ever lost a parent from a young age
  • You’re looking for something with no small amount of companionship, loyalty, and love shown from the two protagonists
  • You’re a parent trying to find the perfect story to use to tuck your kids into bed at night

You may be on your own. But you won't be alone.

— Sara Pennypacker, “Pax”

Reviews

“Pennypacker’s elegant language and insight into human nature spin a fable extolling empathy above all. Peter sometimes feels as if he’s seeing through Pax’s eyes, leading him to understand ‘how things that seem to be separate are really connected to one another.’ By the novel’s poignant ending, Pennypacker has gently made the case that all of us should aspire to that view–children and adults alike.” —TIME Magazine

Pax the book is like Pax the fox: half wild and wholly beautiful.” —The New York Times

Sara Pennypacker, the book’s author

Sara Pennypacker, the book’s author

The Takeaway

Pax is the kind of story that takes your breath away. It’s unique, but not so much that it’s unfamiliar—the idea of a human reuniting with their lost pet has been one toyed with quite a bit over the years. It’s understanding—you feel, sometimes, as though the book is reading into your own soul, so it’s sure to send a message to young ones that says, I see you. Your emotions are valid. I think Pax is close to perfect, and it’s an excellent story no matter what your age.

If you're interested, you can buy the book here.