Monday, March 28, 2016

Pax (Sara Pennypacker)

I took a chance on this book. I have a policy that I always have to read a book before we do it for book club at school - but I really wanted to do this one and I hadn't read it. I have heard so many great things about it. I decided to give it a go.

I love this book because it touched my heart and it left many questions unanswered....great conversation starter!

At first I had some regret. We started reading it aloud in class and found the author doesn't mince at all on vocabulary. I was doing a lot of explaining...and eventually we quit reading it in class (not because we decided to abandon it, but just because book club is supposed to be books that kids read on their own or at home, not necessarily a class read aloud). However, kids kept coming to me telling me how much they were enjoying it. I got report after report about what chapter they were on and how they thought it was really great. I would ask, "Is it too tricky? Too many hard words?" and they were adamant that it wasn't. Okay!!

I do agree that this is a great story. It doesn't have the expected happy ending - something that isn't common in J fiction. I had a student come to me after only having the book for a couple days. She had finished it and wanted to talk about it, but I wasn't finished so I couldn't say much. She just kept saying to me, "I can't believe it....after all that work...." I would just shrug....I couldn't really answer. Finally, she walked away, shaking her head. I am really looking forward to chatting with her now about this book!
Peter's persistence was inspiring. There were many things that seemed just not fair to him. Losing his mother is one bad blow. Why would a dad decide to go off to war and leave his son?? That is never answered. And what is up with grandparents not finding him once he runs off? It does follow a common theme of J fiction though - of kids just looking after themselves. Adults are kind of useless - except for Vola. She's helpful - but quite mysterious and hard to understand. Maybe many adults are that way for kids. I liked Pax's faith in Peter. Even though he continues on and thrives in his natural environment, he never loses faith in Peter - unlike the adults in Peter's life.

Other questions:

Why are they living so near a war-zone anyway? It seems to be set in North America - but we have not had wars here for so many years - that seemed a little disconnected for me.

And in the end, when he says: The apple does fall far from the tree....wasn't he actually relenting by not having Pax come with him? He gives in to everything his father has done.

Goodreads summary:

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.

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