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I really wanted to enjoy this book, and to some extent, once I got past my expectations, I did. I much preferred the chapters told by the fox Pax. The front cover and illustrations are amazing and fit the tone brilliantly. The story is quite interesting with the usual moralistic 'war is bad' undertones running throughout. Not preachily told though. An interesting scene with deer is a pure example - 'why do humans have to ruin everything?'
But I was expecting tears and heartache and a Homeward Bound style adventure in which we see Pax and Peter united. I got none of that. In fact, much of the book is static, staying in the same place once Peter stays with Vola - a hermit style woman ex-military living all alone.
I couldn't quite get my head around when this book was set. It is set during a war - and I couldn't get the American Civil War out of my head, but then Pennypacker mentions car radios and other modern lifestyle items which really makes that impossible.
I'm not sure if this is one of those books really aimed at Adults wrapped up in child wrapping paper. It certainly felt so.
Pax is a stunning read. A story about a fox's search for his missing owner leads to many moments of pure heartbreak (have the tissues ready!) You are immersed in a world where loyalty and friendship is second to none and you are fully rooting for a happy ending. As a primary school teacher, this book has been well received by my class and I will continue to use it in the classroom because of how special this book is.
This is a fine book but not a great one, in my opinion. The story is told in alternating points of view between the boy Peter and his (former) pet fox, Pax. I think my issue with this story is it's a bit heavy-handed and lacks much subtlety. In that sense it reminds me of Victorian and Edwardian literature (in particular I have "The Secret Garden" in mind with its very direct "nature is restorative" theme and unclever and barely-disguised promotion of Christian Science ideology).
A main concepts of the story is that war is a destructive force in terms of the physical costs, emotional trauma, and destruction of life (both human and animal). Nothing exactly groundbreaking there per se, but I think that for a children's book it is handled with care and sensitivity by Pennypacker. Now whether there is a broader moral to be drawn from here, I'm not able to discern. That may be more because of me as a reader than Pennypacker as a writer.
Another, and I would argue most important, idea of the text is that of self-forgiveness. Peter and Vola are both psychologically tormented by their own feelings of guilt, albeit from different causes. Only once the characters have learned to accept their actions and forgive themselves are they able to feel the release of the weight of guilt that was bearing down upon them and move on, positively, with their lives (this being more obvious with Vola than Peter). As a counterpoint, we see the negative effects of those who do not succeed in self-forgiveness, namely manifested in anger and isolation - Vola and Peter's father & grandfather being the prime examples.
For me, Peter's chapters feel bloated. In a more typical book, I most likely wouldn't have given the chapters a second thought. However, Pax's chapters are quite sublime, in my opinion. The imagery is excellent, and the prose is terse and crisp. Pax's story takes up probably a third or less of the space of Peter's, but it is just so much more succinct and weighty in its own way.
In the end, I would argue the final message is that although we are all connected in this great web of life, we must each do what is right by us and what is right for others even if it isn't what we would personally wish for. I feel this message is right, but for some reason it feels a little hollow in this story.
So far in this book it has been amazing. It has been fun to read and I've only read 15 pages so far! I can not wait to finish Pax and to read more of the books you have written. The book I am reading at the moment is a school book, which I can't keep so I am going to ask my mum to buy it for me when I get home tonight! I will also ask my teacher to bring some more of your brilliant books in to school!
A wonderful book with a story and a message for the world. It's about overcoming emotional and physical difficulties, its about triumph, futility of war and it's effects on nature. But mostly it's a story about a boy and a fox. I loved it.
I enjoyed this well written book, but was slightly irritated the lack of clarification as to time and place ,which is never made clear. Where is it set? sounds very American with the indigenous wildlife and dialogue, but then what war exactly? Who were all the 'war sick ' fighting and why, doesn't fit with America. I would have enjoyed it more if this aspect hadn't kept niggling away in the background.
I bought this because the cover looked great - not a brilliant way to choose books, but sometimes something just catches your eye! I loved it so much that it was read in one sitting. And then I took it to school (I teach Year 6). It was snaffled by my Teaching Assistant, who cursed me having read it, as it was so good, and made her cry. One of my 10 year-old pupils came storming in after reading it and said "why!", but both of them agreed it was one of the best things they had read in a long time. It is unconventional for a children's book, in a brilliant way, and I am incredibly glad I found it. So are my TA and the pupil!
What a beautiful book. At first I was really worried all the time, but as the book progressed and I settled into the rhythm of it I relaxed. My daughter, an assistant head and English teacher, said she would not give it to her children to read. I would because it is a story about hope, loss and love, and children should be prepared for this.