298pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99
War is coming and Peter’s father is answering the call to arms. But first he must deliver Peter to his grandfather’s care 300 miles away and before that, they must return the fox that has been Peter’s pet since it was a kit to the wild.
Pax and Peter have been inseparable since Peter found him, his mother killed by a car (as was Peter’s and their friendship has helped him come to terms with his anger and grief as his father dealt with his) and his siblings having starved to death, so to abandon Pax to the wild is heart-breaking. But while Peter sort of understands why, Pax is bewildered when the car roars off while he is searching for a beloved toy Peter has thrown…
And so begins one of the most heart-warming, heart-wrenching stories of the love between human and animal that I’ve read for a long time. Told in alternating chapters between them, we follow Pax’s gradual adaptation to his new surroundings as he slowly comes to accept that Peter is not coming back, at the same time as we follow Peter’s journey back from his grandfather’s home determined to find him and reunite. Neither feels whole without the other. The author worked closely with an expert in fox behaviour, and as well as celebrating that limitless affinity that a child can have with an animal, tame or wild, she uses the two-voice perspective to explore and explain the issues in the story.
This is one for independent readers, or even a class read-aloud, with much to consider and discuss. At the end of it, Pennepacker was not going to write another novel but eventually she did. That book is a sequel to this one – Pax: the Journey Home – and it was receiving that to review that had me requesting Pax. I am so glad I did.