Cindy: Opening this novel and seeing Jon Klassen’s illustration of the fox, Pax, sitting at the edge of the woods in front of a highway took my breath away. I don’t think I breathed again until I finished the story. Pax (2016) is already being hyped as a modern classic, and the 2017 award talk is buzzing. It’s worthy. This story of a boy and his pet fox, separated and then each journeying to find the other, presented alternately from Peter and Pax’s perspectives, is more than just a story of friendship. It’s a story of loss and of war. As one of the book’s interesting characters, Vola, tells Peter, “People should tell the truth about what war costs.”
This book, like Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan, also looks at what it means to be human and to be true to yourself. (See a previous blog post where Lynn and I discuss Ivan.) Pax is full of quotable lines and plenty of issues to toss around and think about. It is already making the rounds in my middle schools with teachers and students. It will be a memorable read aloud title or a book club or lit circle book, too. Don’t wait. Read this now. If you want to know more, read the Booklist starred review linked above, but I’d rather you just buy a copy and start reading. Pax . . . peace . . . we can hope.
Lynn: I first met Sara Pennypacker’s writing through her delightful Clementine series when I read them to my grandsons. I remember it took some convincing get them started because the books were about a girl (yuck) but once started none of us wanted to stop. At the time, the boys were convinced that Sara Pennypacker needed to write a series for boys and seven years later she did just that with Waylon: One Awesome Thing (April 2016).
Waylon, a fourth grader, is science-obsessed, observant, caring and just now—worried. Waylon worries that the other kids are laughing at him, he worries about his sister who overnight turned into a goth girl, he worries about the scary new boy in their class who is rumored to have been in jail and about the way the other boys in his class have divided up into two teams. Waylon has friends on both sides and doesn’t want to chose. Suddenly, he realizes, “I’m an isthmus!” What is a guy to do when he’s stuck in between?
Pennypacker really gets little kids; her characters are authentic and heart-warming. Waylon, like Clementine (who is in Waylon’s class) grapples with the everyday issues of family, friends, school, and navigating a bewildering world. As readers, we have seen these characters in real life. Waylon, who can’t resist sharing vast volumes of little-known science facts with anyone close by, reminds me strongly of my entire “focus group.” Pennypacker writes with humor and heart and I am happy to report that there will more books in this new charming series.