Pax by Sara Pennypacker || Book Review

“Because I am exactly where I should be, doing exactly what I should be doing. That is peace.”

Synopsis: 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.

Source: Goodreads

Title: Pax
Author: Sara Pennypacker
Links: Book Depository | Chapters | Goodreads

Genre / Themes: Coming of Age | Contemporary | Mental Health
Point of View: Alternating Third Person

Publisher: Harpercollins Publishers
Publication Date: March 3, 2016
Format: Paperback
Pages: 288

THOUGHTS

SO many people have been going on about Pennypacker’s Pax, raving about how beautiful and engaging the story is. Honestly, I understand the joy of this book. Pax is an incredible coming of age story, discussing our connection with the Earth and those who inhabit it on such a grand level. Even with all the amazing content, I still found myself LIKING but not LOVING this book. Nonetheless, it’s a wonderful children’s story.

Iseult Murphy, a wonderful blogger and an author, was kind enough to do a buddy read of Pax with me — and it was so much fun! Please make sure to visit her book review post as well!

THE PROS

There’s a ton of symbolism regarding real social issues to connect the novel as a whole. Naming the fox “Pax”, the importance of the toy soldiers, Pax and Peter sharing the first letter of their names … Pennypacker provides small little details to bring the story to life and to connect everything. These symbolism’s also highlight upon social issues and conditions that we face today (i.e. war, PTSD, destruction of the environment), demonstrating the cost if we continue in this manner.

The mirroring “coming of age” and “personal growth” stories are beautifully done between Pax and Peter. The chapters in Pax alternate between Peter and Pax’s POVs, exploring their own journeys. But what’s amazing is how SIMILAR they are but through different experiences. They both learn about the horrors of the world but also about their own strengths … Pax learns how to protect himself and those he cares for, while Peter learns he’s stronger than he seems but he’s also kind and caring like his mother. It’s just REALLY well done.

The heavier themes are addressed in an appropriate manner for children to connect to. Honestly, there’s a LOT of heavy stuff in this novel: loss of a loved one, grief, anxiety, PTSD, abusive parents, guilt, war, violence … the list goes on. But even with all of this, Pennypacker still manages to keep it appropriate for a younger audience. They’re almost demonstrated as life lessons, showing readers there’s a way to heal from past wounds and the importance of finding a way to make peace with those in the world … for really, we’re all connected in some way or form … “two but not two”.

Pennypacker maintains the most fundamental and important message throughout the story … “two but not two”. I seriously LOVED this element of the novel! A major theme is how we are all interconnected — people, animals, the planet … we’re individuals but also one entity. The plot maintains this through every single chapter right to the end, driving it home to readers. It’s also a beautiful note, something important and fundamental for children to learn young and keep with them as they get older — a better hope for future generations.

THE WOES

That ending was so abrupt! I don’t even know how to elaborate on this … it was so out of the blue. For a second, I thought there was a chapter missing to realize that no … that’s just how it ends. Just ONE extra chapter was needed to neatly wrap things up nicely.

↠ There’s a LOT of repetition in the story, making me grow bored. Honestly, it took me about three weeks to finish this due to boredom. Rather than expanding on other topics and avenues, Pennypacker focused TOO MUCH on “finding my fox/human” and the ongoing war. There’s nothing wrong with having some focal themes, but the context and dialogue used were even repetitious. I think this would’ve made a better short story.

I had little emotional connection to the characters. With the fast paced nature of the story, I just wasn’t as moved by the story and characters — which is WEIRD for me since I cry ALL THE TIME! I don’t think this story and the characters will stick with me like other books.

One of the biggest IRKS for me was all the unanswered questions! It’s like Pennypacker brought up things but then just left them behind … the picture of Peter’s dad with a dog, the basket of toy soldiers, what happens to Peter and his dad, Vola’s next steps … I was just left really disappointed, especially since my previous issue was the repetitive nature of the book.

OVERALL

Pax is a wonderful self-discovery children’s novel, discussing the confusing yet wonderful parts of growing up and learning who we are. Though Pax and Peter have their own lessons to learn, their mirroring journeys truly reflect the strength of their bond with one another. It’s a wonderful novel to show children how people who have gone through terrible things can still overcome them, moving forward with an open-mind. It’s also a great way to have the children of today learn mistakes from past generations … providing a better hope for peace in the future.

I recommend this novel if you enjoy:

↠ Books with animal characters
↠ The journey to find oneself trope
↠ Open-ended endings
↠ Emphasis on symbolism
↠ Heavier topics discussed

Have you read Pennypacker’s Pax?

RATING


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13 thoughts on “Pax by Sara Pennypacker || Book Review

  1. Oh man, I want to read this so badly 😩 It sounds so sweet but also sobering. Hopefully I can connect with the characters ‘cause really, it’s the fact that it’s a story about a little boy and his fox best friend that’s reeling me in 😍 Sorry it got kind of boring for you but I’m glad you ultimately liked it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

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