Pax, Journey Home

Peter returns to the woods on a journey of longing and forgiveness that brings closure to both the boy and his beloved fox friend in Sara Pennypacker and Jon Klassen's earnest and wrenching companion novel Pax, Journey Home.

In the aftermath of the acclaimed Pax, Peter is nearly 14. He is both scarred by the conflict that killed his father and heavy with shame after releasing his pet fox into the wilderness. Peter has lost all he can bear and builds emotional barriers hewn as tightly as the boards of wood he laid for his new cabin. Peter builds it, then abandons his plans to inhabit it. Pax, meanwhile, has settled at Deserted Farm, where he holds close memories of his time with the human he trusted. Peter and Pax set out on individual missions of penance and purpose; when their paths intersect, each makes critical decisions that prove to be the salvation of the other.

By again alternating chapters between her protagonists, Pennypacker's lyrical, deliberate language weaves a powerful sense of place, and her short chapters and Whitmanesque tone are descriptive but never florid. Without quotation marks or anthropomorphization, Pennypacker uses clipped speech and italics to convey the fox's thoughts. Caldecott winner Klassen's (The Rock from the Sky) illustrations appear every few chapters, a mix of spot art and full-page sketches to offer visual context. Klassen's sketches are smoky and dappled snapshots in time, and the artwork's gray scale and saturated blacks lend additional texture to the story. Some war wounds have healed in Pax, Journey Home, but aching loss persists for both the land and its inhabitants. This tender story of love and reconciliation, and of families made and chosen, promises comfort after unfathomable hurt. --Kit Ballenger, youth librarian, Help Your Shelf

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