Sara Pennypacker explores loss and nature in new novel “Pax”


Sara Pennypacker often kept to herself as a child in school, the child who chose to read quietly and kept a bright blue notebook with her so she could create written stories. Once for a class assignment, she submitted one of these stories to her teacher.

“I was too shy to watch her because she was an adult, so I’m standing there to pick up my blue notebook with my story, and she won’t give it to me,” Pennypacker said. “So I shoot, shoot, until finally I look at her – and it’s miserable, but I have to look at her – and she said, ‘I want you to remember that moment. You are going to be an author. And I just thought she had no idea the writers were celebrities, and I am not.

In his career, Pennypacker is credited with 25 pounds under his name. “Pax, Journey Home,” a sequel to the beloved 2016 novel “Pax” that focused on the friendship between a teenager and a wild fox, hits bookstores on Tuesday.

But it didn’t start like that. Pennypacker pursued a career as a painter and managed to run his own gallery for years. A urge to create had always scratched Pennypacker, but she never realized she wanted to write until she closed her art gallery and began the process of moving to another state.

The time spent outdoors gave him the chance to pivot to a different realm. She wanted to write a novel. “Right away, I was sitting at the desk and watching the sentences I write, and every step of the way, I was like, yeah, it feels good,” Pennypacker said. “It’s not as difficult as anything I thought it was supposed to be. You know, not that it wasn’t difficult, but that it felt natural. “

Pennypacker’s first published novel was “Dumbstruck” (1994), and she quickly found a foothold with childish audiences with the seven-book series “Clementine” which followed a year of school for a third year girl. year.

“Journey Home” opens a year after the events of the first book, and the lives of the two main characters have changed dramatically – Peter is a newly orphaned boy who sets off on his own through dangerous woodland, and Pax is tasked with looking after for one of his sick kits.

Pennypacker said she knows the sequel can’t start too far into the future due to the red foxes’ lifespan of around five years. In preparation, she consulted with red fox experts and researched the ecology of the environment. Pennypacker also knew she wanted to distinguish the voices of the two narrators – the fox and the boy.

The elements of a good story often parallel what she’s learned as a visual artist, Pennypacker said. An artist shouldn’t let their piece follow predictable lines, she said, and instead is there to facilitate pure expression and allow pieces to end.

Although Pennypacker ended 2016’s “Pax” with the confidence that she would never write a sequel, reactions from readers and her editors have encouraged a continuation of the complex friendship between the teenage girl and the wild fox.

“It’s only when I’ve finished a draft that I’m like, ‘Oh my God, there’s a whole house theme here’ and I’m like, ‘How did that happen?’ “Pennypacker said.” It’s like the story has something for itself that I’m only serving and not really aware of, but I understand it later. “

As a children’s author, Pennypacker said she always viewed the story from a child’s perspective. When Pennypacker began publishing, his young son and daughter informed much of his writing.

Janelle Smith, owner of Wishing Tree Books where “Pax, Journey Home” will be available ahead of the Pennypacker Northwest Passages Book Club virtual event at 4 p.m. Thursday, said she wanted to showcase Pennypacker’s work. because of its wide resonance for children and adults.

“(Reading is) such a sure way to get through tough stuff,” Smith said. “Like my own kid, you know, was very anxious and struggled with anything bad or emotional in the stories. It’s such a safe way to get through it, like you can put it down if it’s too much. You can get away with it and have it in your repertoire of what’s going on in the world. “

Smith said Pennypacker’s work crosses the boundaries of an 8 to 12-year-old demographic, as children are seen as intelligent and imperfect individuals rather than children who need to learn a lesson. “They are so compassionate. … I love that she knows it and honors it and offers it to them, ”Smith said. “Again, it just honors their little hearts, and I think it’s great.”


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