Review of Pax: Journey Home

Pax: Journey Home
by Sara Pennypacker; illus. by Jon Klassen
Intermediate, Middle School    Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins    256 pp.    g
9/21    978-0-06-293034-7    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-293037-8    $10.99

It has been a year since the dramatic and emotional events of Pax (rev. 3/16). Peter, now thirteen and estranged from his grandfather, is living with the kindly hermit Vola. Pax, the fox Peter abandoned, has his own family, with mate Bristle giving birth to a litter of kits. The war from the previous book appears to be over, having claimed the life of Peter’s father and many others. Now people are attempting to rebuild, with a group of volunteers called the Water Warriors helping to decontaminate the local water supply. Peter, feeling restless, alienated, and in denial (“at thirteen, life could never hurt him again”), leaves Vola to join the junior Water Warriors, intending never to return. At the same time, Pax sets out to find his family a new, safer home. Chapters alternate between Pax’s and Peter’s perspectives. The boy’s restrained thoughts and spare dialogue mask his feelings of grief, despair, and a crushing sense of guilt about Pax, while the fox’s own primary concerns are about survival, with occasional memories and specific scents recalling happier times. That the two characters will reunite is to be hoped for (and expected), as they are both drawn back to the place Peter had called home. Subsequent events, lightly foreshadowed, result in a satisfying yet bittersweet conclusion. Klassen’s interspersed textured black-and-white art adds layers of complexity. This sensitively imagined story effectively explores issues of human-animal connection, emotional vulnerability, the aftermath of conflict, and found family.

From the September/October 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is acting editor in chief / executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons University and a BA from Oberlin College.

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