PAX for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

This heartfelt story of a boy and his beloved red fox will tug at your emotions. y450-293There are many books with animals as characters but few reach the level of PAX. As a writer I focus on the style of how words are put forth in published works. By the time I’d finished this book it was loaded with book marks so  I could go back and revisit the expertly crafted sentences.

The tale focuses in alternating chapters on either Pax, the young fox, or Peter, the 12-year-old boy. You know when you have a good story in your hand when the urge to turn to the last page happens much too early. I avoided the urge and kept reading, hoping for a positive outcome for both characters.

The time and setting is never explained, only that there is a war going on, and as usual war is hurtful to humans and animals. You have a sense it may be America in a not too distant future, but not knowing was never a problem. It’s the inner turmoil and confusion brought forth by Peter and Pax that is truly the heart of the story. One to savor, one to read out loud, and one to place on the book shelf in a special spot.



Pax and Peter have been inseparable ever since Peter rescued him as a kit. But one day, the unimaginable happens: Peter’s dad enlists in the military and makes him return the fox to the wild.

At his grandfather’s house, three hundred miles away from home, Peter knows he isn’t where he should be—with Pax. He strikes out on his own despite the encroaching war, spurred by love, loyalty, and grief, to be reunited with his fox.

Meanwhile Pax, steadfastly waiting for his boy, embarks on adventures and discoveries of his own.


  1. The line drawings by Caldecott Medal illustrator, Jon Klassen, are scattered throughout. They look simple but in reality show the difficulty endeared by Pax and Peter. Growing up is hard to do for both.
  2. Don’t expect a cute animal story. The animals do communicate in voice and body language but it is always done in the gritty reality of being in the wild.
  3. Middle grade books are often not read by a wide audience like YA. With Pax, young and old can enjoy the beautifully written story.
  4. Many will scoff at the ending but for me it matched the tone and reality of the book.  No Disney type ending here, and I was both sad and glad.
  5. The depth of the main characters (Pax, Peter, and Vola, the woman he befriends) surfaced in a special way. The father and grandfather were a lot shallower in their portrayal but they only appear briefly.

FAVORITE LINES:  And then she went silent for a while, holding his gaze the whole time. In their silence, Peter felt they were saying something important. Something about the long, dark tunnel he felt narrowing around him.

AUTHOR QUOTE (From Sara’s Website):  Authors often use the term “Windows and Mirrors” with respect to books. It’s a good way to think about how books serve children – as mirrors to who they are, and as windows onto the larger world and who they might become in it. In both cases, the glass must be clear and free of distortion, which means the author has a strict moral duty to be honest. The author must also be kind, because if we’re trying to say to our readers, “Look in the mirror, here you are, a member of the human tribe! Look out the window – the tribe is wide and varied, look at the choices!” We’d better be kind about the flaws and struggles we’re about to portray.


Make a comment if you have time. I enjoy reading all of them. Click on the comments link below.

Check the links to other Middle Grade novels over at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.


About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...writing middle grade novels.
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18 Responses to PAX for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

  1. allenbookclub says:

    I heard Sarah Pennypacker speak about the inception of this novel and the incredible bond children have with animals. I was so intrigued I ordered it while she was speaking. Can’t wait to read it!!

  2. Sounds like a fantastic story if you wanted to cheat and read the ending. I don’t love animal characters in stories, but this might be an exception.

  3. Violet Tiger says:

    This book sounds amazing. I’ll check it out of the library soon. Thank you!

  4. Wow! Excellent review! I have been wanting to read this book. Now I will. I love the quotes you shared.

  5. cleemckenzie says:

    That cover already has my heart, I love stories that bring animals and kids together so this sounds like a perfect book for me. The author’s quote is wonderful.

  6. Dorine White says:

    This sounds like a great, heartfelt read.

  7. Thanks, Greg, for the heads up on this book. I hadn’t heard of it. I will check it out.

  8. Joanne Fritz says:

    I’d heard of this but hadn’t read any reviews. Yours is certainly a glowing one. Sounds inspiring.

  9. I loved this one, too! Such beautiful writing, and the theme was powerful but understated.

  10. Oh, no, a sad animal story? I don’t know if I can do it! But I’d love to see Klassen’s illustrations.

    PS: I didn’t comment on them but I enjoyed your reviews of all the Middle Grade Fiction shortlisted books and added most of them to my TBR! So many great books out there!

  11. Susan says:

    Sounds like a great pic for animal lovers. I loved the windows and mirrors quote. That will stay with me.

  12. I think I’ve been hearing about this one, without ever having any clue what it was about. Thanks for clearing it up, and for the awesome recommendation!

  13. Awww, this book sounds so heartwarming! Thanks for the review! (PS. Did you know that “Pax” in Latin means peace?) 🙂

  14. diegosdragon says:

    Any story with a child and an animal is on my “to read” list, and this one sounds amazing. I just know I’m going to fall in love with Pax…

  15. I’m reading this now. I just love it. I have to keep getting up to hug my dog to tell him I’m glad I’m his human!

  16. msyingling says:

    Do you think that this will be one that teachers like more than students? It was so sad, and sort of confusing (since it didn’t specify a time or place), and I wasn’t a fan. Sad books. Gack!So done with all of them!

  17. Pingback: HERE IN THE REAL WORLD | Always in the Middle…

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