PaxPax by Sara Pennypacker
My rating: 5/5 cats
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

when i first saw this book advertised at BEA, i did an anticipation-dance while drooling over that cover. it was a very messy dance, like a drunken sprinkler, and i guess it dizzied me into thinking this was a picture book. i couldn’t wait to get my hands on it, and the day it came out i barreled straight over to the kids department and after rerouting myself from the picture book section, i grabbed a copy and had to pause for confusion. words?? why so many words?

there are actually very few pictures in here, and there isn’t even a fox in all of them, which was kind of disappointing at first, but then i read it and there was no more disappointment. okay, there was significantly less disappointment.

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this is a powerful story; it’s harsh, but it’s honest.

it’s war and nature and violence and death and love and duty and loyalty and sacrifice. which, to be fair, would have been a lot for a picture book to take on, but the heart wants what the heart wants.

there are some middle grade books that you read when you’re a kid that are totally disposable; just reading for reading’s sake and you forget all about ’em ten minutes after they’re done. but then there are some that are a little more challenging, that inspire complicated emotions lasting well into adulthood. for me, it was Island of the Blue Dolphins, Where the Red Fern Grows, The Trumpet of the Swan, The Incredible Journey, etc, and i just know that if i were a wee young’un today, this would also become one of those books for me.

it’s a lovely story about a boy and his pet fox, separated by war, and their struggle to reunite. it’s tender and sad and fervent emotional stuff. i didn’t cry, because that’s a rare and beautiful thing, but i got one of those lumps in my throat that was either temporary cancer or feelings.

my roaring about the ending of the book was written immediately after finishing it, and now that i have had a little bit of time to process it, i am somewhat less reactionary. the ending itself is fine – fair and reasonable and not dissimilar to many other books/films of its kind. is it what i wanted to happen? no, but i also didn’t want andie to end up with blane because duh.

but i do feel left in limbo – there are a couple of hanging chads bugging me and preventing me from a full-on embrace of the story. i understand with my logic-brain that it’s more effective to have the book end where it did in full emotional flower of instead of having a “time passes” epilogue or something, but it does give me a little resolution-agita.

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so, yeah -it seems i do still have a problem with the way the ending was handled, but i’m not gonna let that ruin my day or the five-star cat feel of this book in my heart.

the heart wants what the heart wants and the heart is also able to overlook as many flaws as it has to if there are enough strong positive feelings inside.

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