At its core, Pax it is a simple love story. From the very first page, Pax is truly heart breaking: a tale of loyalty and friendship, hope and bravery. It sweeps across time and place, set in an unspecified year, in an unspecified landscape, yet its themes are painfully familiar to the world we live in today. A landscape, a family, a great bond between a young boy and his fox, all are torn apart by conflict.
Peter found the injured cub and cared for it. As it healed and grew in strength, the bond between them also grew. The foxes’ physical pain was mirrored by Peter’s emotional pain: pain at the loss of his mother, pain at the great rift between himself and his father. Peter and his fox – Pax – become companions, best-friends, offering each other protection and comfort. But, there is talk of war. As the danger encroaches ever closer, Peter is forced by his father to return his beloved Pax to the wild, before leaving home to live a great distance away with his grandfather. Peter’s father enlists and Peter is left alone, lost without his fox. As Peter’s car drives away, Pax is left alone, lost without his boy. Peter realises that being hand-reared means certain death for Pax, alone in the wild. In the shadow of war, fearful for the fate of Pax, Peter sets out, desperate to be reunited with him. Meanwhile, Pax, determined and resolute, waits. He waits, knowing that his boy will return for him. He waits, certain that his one true friend would never abandon him.
The story drifts from Pax to Peter, Peter to Pax, weaving each of their adventures together, like two strands from the same cloth. Whilst struggling to survive alone in the wilderness, both Pax and Peter find companionship and with it, hope. The details of the war are never specific, nor can they be pinpointed to any point in history, therefore they become unimportant. The effect of the fear and chaos, however, brought by man on to the natural world and to Peter’s world, is made abundantly clear. Themes of war, PTSD, family divides, loss and sacrifice are swirled through the story. All are worthy of discussion and raise many questions.
Jon Klassen’s illustrations, true to style and form, are enchanting. Equally, Sara Pennypacker’s use of vocabulary is poetic – story-telling at its best. Pax – a poignant, thought-provoking story, filled with emotion – is literary art in every sense: a high-quality text to inspire high-quality discussion, questioning and creative writing.
Pax by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Jon Klassen
Balzer & Bray/Harperteen ISBN: 978-0062377012