Illustrator: Jon Klassen
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: February 2, 2016
Pax was only a kit when his family was killed, and "his boy" Peter rescued him from abandonment and certain death. Now the war front approaches, and when Peter's father enlists, Peter has to move in with his grandpa. Far worse than being forced to leave home is the fact that Pax can't go. Peter listens to his stern father--as he usually does--and throws Pax's favorite toy soldier into the woods. When the fox runs to retrieve it, Peter and his dad get back in the car and leave him there--alone. But before Peter makes it through even one night under his grandfather's roof, regret and duty spur him to action; he packs for a trek to get his best friend back and sneaks into the night. This is the story of Peter, Pax, and their independent struggles to return to one another against all odds. Told from the alternating viewpoints of Peter and Pax.
When war comes to Peter's country, his dad makes him take his pet fox, Pax, out to the woods and abandon him before moving 200 miles away to his grandfather's. Once there, his dad goes off to war and leaves Peter to feel miserable about what he's done. So miserable he can't live with it. So he sets off to get Pax back but is waylaid along the way. Meanwhile, Pax, who waits for his boy to return for him, slowly learns to live in the wild, makes friends, and teeters on the edge of the war-sick world.
My first thoughts going into this was how much it reminded me of the movies 'The Fox and the Hound' and 'Homeward Bound' (based off the book, The Incredible Journey). While it starts out very much like both, it doesn't end like either. To explain why I am reminded of these, we start out with Peter being forced to leave his pet fox behind which totally reminds me of The Fox and Hound' and then there is a magnificent journey that very much reminds me of 'Homeward Bound / The Incredible Journey' in a way, though it is very different. Peter sets out to find his fox instead of the other way around.
I really enjoyed the characters in this book, human and animal alike. Peter was a very determined boy set on righting his wrongs and making sure his fox was alright. He was a little stubborn but that really endeared me to him. Zola was pretty essential to Peter's growth as a character. She always had some bit of wisdom to bestow upon the boy and I enjoyed reading about how they changed each other's perspectives and opinions on many things. The character development went both ways and really, Zola was as much a main character in this book as Peter or Pax.
On the other hand, reading the alternating chapters from Pax's point of view really gave me a better look at how being thrust into the wild after being raised in captivity affects an animal. This perspective also gave us more information on the war, as well as Peter's father.
I did hear that this is a heartbreaking story before going into it and I'm really not sure why. It really had me expecting the worst. Luckily, there was no real need to worry. There are a few moments that you would expect from a war-ridden land, and they are a little sad, but not really worthy of too many tears. I supposed maybe I'm not being emotional enough since I've been seeing reviews saying it brought tears to some, but really, this is not a story that you will need tissues for. At least not in my opinion. It doesn't have the happiest ending but it isn't all that bad either.
Overall, I think this is a well written coming-of-age story with some great messages that would be enjoyed at any age.