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War is coming, and 12-year-old Peter is to be evacuated to his grandfather’s home. Pax the fox has been Peter’s pet ever since he was just a kit; they have been inseparable ever since. When Peter’s father decides that Peter cannot take Pax along with him, Peter is forced to abandon Pax in the woods, a life for which the fox has never been prepared.

As soon as Peter moves in with his grandfather, he realizes that leaving Pax behind was a terrible mistake. He sets off to find him again. Meanwhile Pax, confronting a world he knows nothing about, struggles to survive in this new terrain.

Peter finds himself in over his head in this quest. He needs the help of Vola, a woman who has been keeping to herself for many years. Pax must also depend on others to navigate his wild and beautiful new world.

Wise about people, foxes, and the importance of friendship, this juvenile novel explores the intersection of human beings and the natural world as well as the way fear and compassion compete for our hearts. With beautiful prose appealing to readers of all ages, Pennypacker shows the devastation that war and loss wreak on people and the world they live in. The story is enhanced by spare but affecting illustrations from popular children’s book author Jon Klassen (This Is Not My Hat).

Parents and teachers may want to know that Pennypacker refers to the Buddhist idea of nonduality, “two and not two,” as a way to explain that everything is connected to everything else, the way that Peter is connected to Pax. It presents an opportunity to talk to young readers about our own understanding of being the handiwork of the Creator of all things and of the respect that is due to his creation. Ages 8 and up. (Balzer + Bray)

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