This book is for readers aged 10 years and upwards.
The story is complimented by the lovely illustrations by Jon Klassen. Although it is written for younger readers it has themes that everyone can identify with. Those topics range from the bond between a child and their pet, abandonment, PTSD, war and moving on in life.
Pennypacker lets the reader see the topics through two sets of eyes, those of Peter the boy and Pax the fox. It gives an overall view of the world through the eyes of the humans and through the eyes of the animals.
The story starts with Peter being forced to dump his hand-reared fox in the woods. Pax is his best friend and his pet. Peter realises that being hand-reared means possible death to the animal, and sets off to find him. He feels guilty for abandoning his friend and for not standing up to his father.
Meanwhile Pax is re-introduced to his natural environment and to other foxes. They perceive him as the enemy because he smells like, and I quote, ‘Stinky-Human.’
The animals communicate and talk about the humans and their wars. Pennypacker gives the animals more than just a voice, she gives them conversation, opinions and insights.
The story is very subtle, you feel a sense of peace and feel a part of the forest. I think the story of Pax the fox is a lot stronger than that of his human. At the same time Peter’s story is also poignant. His encounter with the veteran, the discussion about PTSD, the debate on war (even the animals get in on that). There was also an interesting parallel made between the aggression in his father and behaviour passed on from generation to generation.
Overall it is definitely literary fiction I would recommend for both younger and older readers.