“You going back for your home or for your pet?”
“They’re the same thing.”
Now, this book may be sitting and waiting to be picked up in the children’s section of any bookshop but it sure isn’t a book for children.
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 favourite 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.
The story is about a boy who needs to leave his pet fox behind because his father says so. The narrative presents two perspectives: the boy’s and the fox’s. Pax, the fox, loves ‘his boy’ more than he loves himself and so does Peter, the boy. The only difference is that only one of the two realises it first.
That can’t end up well, can it?
In every true friendship, the amount of caring should be equal. In their case, the animal’s is greater because it’s freer. That’s what the book really is about; it’s about how a tie can only last if none of the knots breaks apart. It’s hard for a child to understand such a thing. If I were a child and read Pax, I would just cry over the fact that the poor boy’s father made him leave his pet behind. I wouldn’t understand that the story is about the nature of people (and of animals) or that it touches the delicate issue of ‘always having another option’. Of always being able to choose even if you’re being oppressed by something stronger.
Pax is a children’s book but it is not a book for children. Or maybe it is, to the extent that it is for the child inside of you who still feels wronged and betrayed by everyone who made you choose the wrong path.