Interview with Sara Pennypacker about PAX, JOURNEY HOME

Kathie: Hi Sara, and welcome to MG Book Village. I’m so glad to have the opportunity to chat with you about PAX, JOURNEY HOME, which comes out on September 7th from Balzer & Bray. I loved reconnecting with Pax and Peter and discovering what’s happened in their lives since we last saw them. Can you tell our readers what to expect in this sequel?

Sara: The sequel takes place a year after the first book ended, and it’s been a busy time.  Pax and Bristle are parents – this isn’t much of a spoiler if you’ve seen the gorgeous cover by Jon Klassen – and readers will spend time with the fox kits as they grow. Peter has spent the year at Vola’s where he’s learning to work with wood and building himself a cabin, but he’s had a new loss. 

Kathie: There are five years between the publication of Pax and this new story. At what point did you start writing this second adventure, and what perspective did you get about your characters during that time?

Sara: For a couple of years after PAX came out, I was certain there would be no sequel. I had deliberately left PAX’s ending a bit ambiguous, and I was not surprised to hear from readers that they kept wondering what happened after that final scene. What did surprise me was that I would keep thinking about it! Mostly I worried: Poor Peter, carrying so much loss on his young shoulders, and Pax, making his way in the unfamiliar wild world. One day I was talking to my agent about the things I thought might happen in the following year, and as I was talking, we both realized I had another book. 

Kathie: I really loved watching Peter and Pax reunite, and the trust that Pax has in Peter even when Peter struggles to believe he’s worthy of it. What do you enjoy about writing from the perspective of a fox?

Sara:  All the fox scenes, even the ones that included danger, were a joy for me. To write from  that viewpoint you need to stay in the moment and to pay attention to the natural environment at all times: Is there danger from the sky? Is there something to eat below the ground? In contrast to how I wrote Peter, I never had Pax worry about past mistakes or about how he might be judged. It was very freeing – maybe animals have something to teach us! 

Kathie: Both Peter and Pax grew during their year apart, and developed new relationships. What influence do you think their time together had on their ability to connect with others?

Sara:  First, it’s important to notice the differences: Peter spent the year closing himself off and convincing himself he had no need for family, while Pax did the exact opposite – he fit himself joyfully into his wild environment and welcomed a new family with boundless love. But both remembered their time together and neither grew bitter or distrustful. Pax remained a little more at ease around humans and Peter’s closeness with Pax left him more comfortable in wilderness. 

Kathie: There’s a strong environmental theme in this story. What message would you like readers to take away from it?

Sara: Oh, boy. Yes, there is an environmental theme, but I hope I don’t come off as trying to send a message – that’s not the job of a story-teller. I think good books should raise questions, though, and let the readers consider those questions for themselves. PAX asked the questions “What are the real costs of war and who pays them?”  PAX, JOURNEY HOME asks how can we heal after loss. One of the losses in the book was clean water – humans, animals and plants alike have been sickened by water contaminated during the war of the first book. In the sequel we see that the same organization, equipment and personel can be repurposed to clean up the water.

Kathie: What is your involvement in the illustration process? Do you collaborate with Jon Klassen or does your work occur separately?

Sara: I have almost no involvement at all, and that’s my universal position through all my books. Illustration is its own art form and I am not an expert, so I just stay out of the way and marvel at it afterward! 

Kathie: Will we see more stories about Pax and Peter, or are you working on something new at the moment?

Sara: No, I am not worried about Peter and Pax anymore – they are both on good, healthy paths now – so I will not revisit them. And right now I am just finishing up a new novel – something lighter and funnier – that should come out early in 2023. 

Kathie: Thank you so much for answering my questions today, Sara, and I can’t wait for young readers to be able to pick up your book.

Sara: Me too, Kathie! It takes so long to put a novel together, and involves so much of your heart, that it’s really hard to wait until publication…and now finally that’s going to happen! It was a joy to return to the world of the foxes, and I hope that’s how it feels to readers, too. 

Sara Pennypacker is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Pax; its sequel Pax, Journey Home, the award-winning Clementine series and its spinoff series, Waylon; and the acclaimed novels Summer of the Gypsy Moths and Here in the Real World. She divides her time between Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and Florida. You can visit her online at www.sarapennypacker.com.

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