A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Readers learn about the rationales for war and its destructive impact on innocent bodies and souls. Along with Peter, they'll also pick up information about subjects from wilderness survival to woodworking; with Pax, they'll learn about the social habits of foxes. The story of Sinbad is important to one of the characters.
Strong messages about finding what's true for you and acting on it. If you've done wrong, make it right. You are not doomed to repeat the same mistakes, even if they run in the family; you can do better. Also, dark as things are, compassion, kindness, and nurturing make life-changing differences.
Positive Role Models
Peter's on a hero's journey that takes him from bullied victim forced to betray his best friend to a mature, determined human who takes responsibility for the damage he's done, and he struggles and sacrifices to protect his loved ones. Pax, on his own quest, is equally unswerving in his devotion to his boy, even as he learns more and more terrifying things about humans. Along the way they encounter bad people and deadly forces but also kind souls, from the foxes who befriend Pax to the recluse who takes injured Peter in and teaches him skills and life lessons to the young soldier who misses his own dog.
Violence & Scariness
The war-driven violence in Pax is most horrific because it repeatedly destroys lovable innocents; when a deer wanders into a meadow and is blown up by a land mine, there's little description of gore, just a heartrending sense of betrayal and wrongness. A fox describes in detail how she saw her parents clubbed to death after her mother was caught in a trap. Peter, whose mother died in a car accident years earlier, is terrified that he'll grow up rage-driven like his father; he's tormented by the memory of how his actions contributed to a baby rabbit's death long ago. As he's learning to carve wood, he cuts the image of a fox into his arm. A veteran maimed in another war describes how war can change people:
"What would you call someone who can go from a girl eating peaches and watching fireflies to a woman who kills a man? Eh? That girl would have cut off her arm before she'd have hurt a single one of those fireflies, but a few years later she killed a perfect stranger. I'd call that person a weapon. I'm an unpredictable, deadly weapon."
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
One of the fox characters is pregnant.
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One of the characters frequently uses what she says is a swear word in her late grandfather's unnamed language. Another human character pees on a bush.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A briefly encountered, slightly threatening adult is smoking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Pax, by Sara Pennypacker (Clementine) is the story of a deeply bonded 12-year-old boy and his pet fox caught up in an increasingly dystopian nightmare. It begins with an act of betrayal as the boy's father forces him to abandon the fox and compellingly describes the two friends' struggle to find each other and make things right. Plenty of bad things happen, from the death of the boy's mom years ago to a crazy, senseless war that destroys everything in its path. Some of the scenes (e.g., the car speeding away, leaving a bewildered Pax in the woods, or a deer wandering into a field and being blown to bits by a land mine) may be too much for sensitive kids. But the story, set in a nameless country, also offers strong positive messages about knowing yourself, doing what you know to be right, and doing your best to fix things if you've done wrong.
Is It Any Good?
Horrific, infuriating, and uplifting by turns, this riveting tale of previously inseparable friends torn apart by war and betrayal will have readers breathless to the last heartrending page. It's not for the faint of heart, depicting a world of horrors that threaten to engulf everything good, kind, and beautiful, making its point with such scenes as a magnificent deer grazing in a meadow and stepping on a land mine.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.