“You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.” – The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Those were the words I couldn’t shake while reading Sara Pennypacker’s Pax (HarperCollins Publishers, 2016). The fox’s wise words from a beloved childhood classic echoed on each page of Pennypacker’s middle grade book about a boy and his fox.
Peter has raised Pax since he was a kit. Half wild and wrapped in a blanket of grief and anger following the death of his mother, Peter finds the young kit. Like Peter, Pax’s mother is dead and he is all alone. Peter knows the fox will not survive without him, and he defiantly tells his father that he is keeping the animal.
Pax is half tame and devoted to his boy. They are inseparable, two halves to the same wild coin. But war is coming, and war makes adults do things they wouldn’t normally do. Peter’s father enlists and takes Peter to his grandfather’s. Pax is not allowed to come, and Peter is forced to release his beloved pet into the wild.
In alternating chapters, the reader sees Peter’s guilt and overwhelming sense of responsibility to his fox, to his pet, while also feeling the broad range of emotions that flood through the beautiful fox as he realizes his beloved human had tricked him and what it means to be free.
Peter begins a dangerous journey, intent on finding his fox and bringing him home. Pax, intent on finding his boy, has an equally perilous journey as he traverses through previously unknown dangers from wild animals to manmade horrors. The half-wild boy and the half-tame fox are full heart.
I read Pax with the same tightness in my chest that shows up when watching Peter wait, hope, pray for Shadow to appear at the end of Homeward Bound. This heartbreakingly sweet and tragic story of a half wild boy and his half tame fox is full heart and, while written for children, knows no age.
Read this book. Love this book.
***The sequel, Pax, Journey Home will be published September 7, 2021!*