Monday, May 23, 2016

Pax by Sara Pennypacker illustrated by Jon Klassen

In an in awe of an author like Sara Pennypacker.  One of the most wonderful things about reading is when you know you are in the safe hands of a master storyteller especially when realise this right from the start of the story.  You know the characters might experience hardship, difficulties, pain and trauma but you also know the author will bring everyone safely home - not in a sentimental or trite way - but in a way that leaves you gasping at the sheer brilliance of their writing.

From the very first page I knew Pax would be a powerful and memorable book.  Now I have finished reading Pax I know this story will linger with me a long time.

"The fox felt the car slow before the boy did, as he felt everything first.  Through the pads of his paws, along his spine, in the sensitive whiskers at his wrists."

Each chapter of Pax alternates between Peter, a young boy grieving the loss of his mother and confused by the reactions and life decisions of his father and Pax, a young fox that Peter has raised from a small cub.  Sara Pennypacker is able to give this wild creature such an authentic voice.

"He lifted his muzzle and bayed a single aching note.  It had been so long since he'd seen his boy. Before this, they'd never been apart for more than half a day. Often Peter would leave in the morning, and Pax would pace his pen in increasing distress until the afternoon, when Peter would come home, smelling of other young humans and of the strange breath of the large yellow bus that delivered him."

In this selection you can see how Sara Pennypacker is able to give the reader a deep insight into the highly developed senses of the fox.  His use of smell and other animal intuitions contrast with those of Peter and yet wild creature and boy have an amazing, spiritual connection.

We sadly need to cover our copy of Pax with plastic to protect it from multiple readings but if you can buy your own copy of Pax make sure you look under the dust jacket.  Megan Dowd Lambert alerted me to this special feature that is added to some picture books and novels.

Here is the author web site and a set of discussion questions.  Here is an audio sample from the first chapter. This book would be a terrific addition to a unit on survival or it could be used with a small group as an extension text.  You can see some images from the book here.

If you enjoy Pax I would recommend the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness beginning with Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver, The Honest Truth, The eye of the Wolf by Daniel Pennac,  Julie of the wolves by Jean Craighead George, A dog's life by Ann Martin and Hatchet.

The quotes below link to reviews in the New York Times and Kirkus.

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