There's so much to love - REALLY love - about this book! About halfway through, I was anticipating that rare breathlessness I get at the end of a stelThere's so much to love - REALLY love - about this book! About halfway through, I was anticipating that rare breathlessness I get at the end of a stellar read. With its Homeward Bound-ish theme, evocative writing, and the bonus socio-political commentary, how could Pax possibly NOT knock my socks off?
Twelve-year-old Peter and his pet fox, Pax, are forcibly separated when Peter's father enlists and Peter must go to live with his grandfather. The story alternates between Peter's and Pax's experiences as they try to find each other across hundreds of miles of countryside, as the advancing warfront threatens their very lives. When Peter breaks his leg, he overcomes it thanks to the care of the crusty but caring hermit woman Vola (she is AWESOME, by the way!). In the meantime, Pax discovers his own identity as a wild animal.
There's some spectacular writing and uncommon, dark themes for a middle grade book. I loved the acknowledgment and description of anger and anxiety - Sara Pennypacker repeatedly describes the latter metaphorically as a snake that slowly coils its way around the brain as it slithers and taunts. (Wow! Yes!) I love when Vola informs Peter that "We all own a beast called anger." (Again, yes!) And there's no mistaking the continual message regarding the evils of war. It's fascinating (but oddly a relief) that this tale's location and time period are never revealed, leaving the reader to imagine and question if this could be his own country and time.
So, the story completely had me, and I was anticipating the Red Fern or Ivan moment. I'm always up for a great animal story. But somewhere, despite all the good, this one fell a bit short. The ending left me dismayed and flat. Although the conclusion isn't wrong, it's just too abrupt. Suddenly - BAM! Peter realizes that Pax won't be his pet anymore after all, and, well, he's okay with that. After they've both been longing and grieving and searching for each other for the entire novel? I wish this (again, correct) ending had been handled a bit more gracefully...it would have been a 5-star read! Regardless, though, a great book that my older, more mature elementary students will enjoy. ...more
Still trying to sort out my responses to this interesting, whimsical book...fantasy is not my go-to genre, but I made it all the way through this one,Still trying to sort out my responses to this interesting, whimsical book...fantasy is not my go-to genre, but I made it all the way through this one, which says something in itself.
I read this story in two nights, which (for me) means that the pacing is great! No slow or dead spots...relatively short chapters...everything keeps moving. I love that for the audience it's written for!
It's engaging and fun! The very idea of an invisible circus! The remarkably imaginative Lightbender show, when he takes his audience through different worlds, ending in each person's own dream...wow! It reminded me of a Star Trek holideck. :D
But I guess what is missing is full character developmemt. I didn't feel as much emotional attachment or connection with the characters as I think I could have...only at times, like at the VERY end when the grandfather dies (which is a beautiful little scene). Otherwise, the characters struck me as somewhat flat. It seemed like they were almost secondary to the plot...just there to move the story along.
Regardless, this is a beautiful, engaging, thought-provoking novel - especially for it being Cassie Beasley's debut! Can't wait to read more from her in the future. ...more
I honestly can't decide if this book gets 1 star for stereotypes, inane conversations, and sappiness, or 4 stars for historical intrigue...so I'm geneI honestly can't decide if this book gets 1 star for stereotypes, inane conversations, and sappiness, or 4 stars for historical intrigue...so I'm generously giving it 3 stars and thank goodness my opinion is just one of many.
I almost quit this one so many times...yet something kept me engaged. I think it was the historical details, the exploration of this little known chapter of U.S. history, that fascinated me. The constant thought in the back of my mind that the CONTEXT of this [ridiculously contrived] love story actually had a fair amount of truth...and how sad, how shameful, that truth is.
The romantic in me was forced to be happy at the ending...but good grief. How much awkward writing and Chinese stereotyping should one reader be expected to go along with to get there? Japanese stereotyping, too, for that matter. And black. And white! Ugh. My work here is done. ...more
Oh, how I love sassy cats - in books. :) This Cat is one of the best ones yet! He reminds me of Melanie Watt's Chester. I love the way the conversatioOh, how I love sassy cats - in books. :) This Cat is one of the best ones yet! He reminds me of Melanie Watt's Chester. I love the way the conversation between the narrator and Cat requires the reader to examine the illustrations carefully - an important skill for young readers that can be glossed over in the rush to read early. In this story, Cat knows he hasn't been good enough for a visit to Santa, so he's "trying" to do SOMETHING nice before it's too late. Fun, lighthearted holiday book! ...more
Betty Bunny is such a happy, spirited bunny - how perfect for her to star in an Easter book. The illustrations are beautiful and I love the font, too.Betty Bunny is such a happy, spirited bunny - how perfect for her to star in an Easter book. The illustrations are beautiful and I love the font, too. Irrepressible Betty LOVES Easter (no surprise there) and wants to be the Easter Bunny when she grows up. But when she discovers that the only reason she always finds the most eggs is because everyone else "helps" her, she's not pleased and insists on doing it herself. Nice little growing up story, and the ending is a great jumping off point for discussion about WHEN we should do things by ourselves and when we don't. Cute and a different take on Easter! ...more
What a sweet book in the true spirit of Valentine's Day. Jasper Bunny goes in search of the perfect gift for his wife Lilly, but despite visiting numeWhat a sweet book in the true spirit of Valentine's Day. Jasper Bunny goes in search of the perfect gift for his wife Lilly, but despite visiting numerous other forest friends, can't find just the right thing. Dejected, he returns home empty-handed, to turn and discover that his footprints have traced out a huge heart in the snow below the burrow - proving that his journey for a gift showed his love more than any item could. This is David Petersen's first picture book, and while the writing has some awkward transitions, the idea and pictures are top notch. ...more
In this modern-day Thanksgiving story, Tuyet is concerned because her family will be having duck for Thanksgiving - which seems to go against her teacIn this modern-day Thanksgiving story, Tuyet is concerned because her family will be having duck for Thanksgiving - which seems to go against her teacher's reference to the holiday as "Turkey Day." She fears she's doing something not quite right, even though she enjoys the food and time with family. Happily, upon returning to school, she discovers that the vegetarian, Hispanic, and Chinese kids in her class celebrated with different foods as well! The multicultural approach and acceptance of different traditions is gently presented, and a diverse audience of kids will enjoy this story! ...more
Here's an unexpected Thanksgiving story: Gus the turkey becomes a pilgrim himself as he runs away from home to avoid becoming the holiday feast. He esHere's an unexpected Thanksgiving story: Gus the turkey becomes a pilgrim himself as he runs away from home to avoid becoming the holiday feast. He escapes one situation after another, finally ending up in Antarctica with the penguins. I shared this book with kindergarten students in November and it was well received, especially after we made a turkey puppet with finger holes for the legs so the children could make "their" turkey run away, too. The story itself is awkward in places, and illustrations a bit too cartoonish for my taste, but it did help us define what a "pilgrim" is - in a kind of different way! ...more