by Sara Pennypacker
Twelve-year-old Peter loves his pet fox, Pax. He has a particularly strong emotional attachment to it- he found the baby fox barely alive in a den after its mother was struck by a car. This was just after his own mother had died in a car accident. The bond between them is strong, and the fox has never known any other life than beside his boy. Now war is coming. Peter\’s father enlists in the military; Peter is sent off to live with his grandfather. He feels sure his fox will not survive in the woods alone, and runs away to go back and get him. But meets with his own accident along the way, that threatens to hold him up indefinitely. Meanwhile, Pax has run into all the challenges of the wild: finding food, avoiding bad weather, meeting wild foxes who claim their own turf. Will the two ever be reunited?
I wanted to like this book, but about a third of the way through felt my interest slowly lagging. It just doesn\’t hold up to the style of recent reads. Something about the storyline made me think it was set during an earlier era- WWII? but the conversations between people feels perfectly modern. So I was never sure about the place and time. Maybe it\’s mean to be anytime, anyplace… The chapters alternate between the boy\’s perspective and the fox. I liked most of what I read about the fox- but a lot of its behavior was more reminiscent of a dog- the devoted loyalty to his owner. And the way the foxes communicate with thoughts conveyed by gesture and scent but expressed in short sentences- I understood how the author was trying to portray that, but it didn\’t quite work for me. Ah, well. It\’s written for middle-grade readers, after all. By the way: for that age group, it may be a bit stark. There\’s quite a bit of bloodshed, suffering and death, especially for the foxes.
My public library\’s website now has a feature that suggests titles to me based on what I\’ve checked out before. Usually I ignore it, but since I read a J fiction book about a fox, it recommended a few more to me. This one caught my eye because I recognized the illustration on the cover- I have really liked the picture books by Jon Klassen. But this is a chapter book, not a picture book. Most of the illustrations inside are small, there are a total of four full-sized ones, and they\’re all black and white. I think what really appeals to me about Klassen\’s illustrations is his use of muted earth tones; that effect is totally lost in the monochrome reproductions.
Abandoned 276 pages, 2016