Books And More

A Friendship with a Fox

Author Sara Pennypacker chats with TFK about Pax and the debut of her new series

May 05, 2016
DON HEINY FOR TIME FOR KIDS; AUTHOR PHOTO BY LORRAINE SCHEPPLER

Author Sara Pennypacker's middle-grade book, Pax, is about the relationship between a boy and his pet fox.

Sara Pennypacker’s latest novel, Pax, has been out for a few months, and it’s already a bestseller. The middle-grade book tells the story of a 12-year-old boy named Peter and the unique friendship he has with his pet fox, Pax.

At the beginning of the book, Peter must leave home to go live with his grandfather. A war is going on, and Peter’s father is joining the military. Since Peter is moving away, his father makes him release Pax back into the wild. At his grandfather’s house, hundreds of miles from where he left Pax, Peter feels guilty about abandoning the fox. He sneaks away on his own, with only a backpack, to go back and find his pet.

Peter’s quest to find Pax, and Pax’s struggle to survive in the wild, make up the heart of the story.

The novel is told through alternating chapters. One set of chapters follows Peter, and the other follows Pax.

The first book in Sara Pennypacker’s Waylon! series hit stores in April.

DON HEINY FOR TIME FOR KIDS
The first book in Sara Pennypacker’s Waylon! series hit stores in April.

Pennypacker is also launching a new middle-grade book series. The first novel, Waylon! One Awesome Thing, hits stores this month. Pennypacker spoke with TFK about both projects.

TFK:

How did you come up with the idea for Pax?

SARA PENNYPACKER:

I have known for many years that I was going to write a book about the cost of war on children. At the same time, I have wanted always to write about the incredible bond between children and animals, even wild animals. About six years ago, I realized that I needed to write one book about both of these things.

TFK:

What made you choose to write about a fox?

PENNYPACKER:

For the storyline to have themes of wild versus tame, I knew it would not work to have a common domestic animal. I also wanted an animal that would most directly link and refer back to my readership for this book, which I consider to be kids ages 9 to 14. In my research about the fox, I found out that they are curious, incredibly intelligent, and that they have a lively social life and are very adaptable. I realized that the fox is the perfect representation of my readers. They are so smart and so fun.

TFK:

What kind of work did you do to learn about foxes?

PENNYPACKER:

First, I did regular kind of research in the library and on the internet so I would become more familiar with foxes. I also worked with a wildlife tracker who is a red fox expert. He was so helpful.

TFK:

Have you always loved animals? Did you have pets as a child?

PENNYPACKER:

We had a slew of cats and dogs, and I even convinced my parents to let me have a pet goat! I always rescued wild animals, or tried to rescue them.

TFK:

I saw that Pax is going to be made into a film. Will you be involved?

PENNYPACKER:

I have an official role as executive producer, but I am respectful of people who make films so I am going to try and stay out of it and let them do their job. I can tell you that it will not be animated, and the fox scenes will be CGI.

TFK:

Tell us about Waylon! One Awesome Thing, which kicks off your new book series.

PENNYPACKER:

The books speak to those kids who are intellectually in one place, and emotionally in a different place. Waylon is a science nut, and he can dazzle you with this thinking. Yet, he doesn’t know what is [happening] on the playground with the other kids. I think that is a predicament that is common in childhood. I wanted to show the drama and humor of being a fourth-grade boy.

TFK:

Do you have any other new books in the works?

PENNYPACKER:

The second Waylon! book will be out in about a year. Right now, I am working on the third Waylon! It takes about a year for me to write a book. I love middle-grade novels. They have such a great range, and they are attracting some of the finest writing going on. As a novelist, this is the place to be!


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