When she begins a new book, Sara Pennypacker wants to see it from a child’s point of view.
“Since 9/11 is when I really noticed there’s no way you could shield children from stuff that’s going on in the world that they are too young to process, but they’re still gonna get hit with it,” Pennypacker said. “So, what is my job as an author? It’s to present the world as it is, but also to present the world as it should be.”
Pennypacker spoke with fellow author Chris Crutcher about her sequel to 2016’s popular “Pax,” called “Pax: Journey Home,” during a virtual live Northwest Passages Book Club event Thursday .
After “Pax” was released, Pennypacker was sure she would never write a sequel, and had actually planned to take a break for a few years, she told Crutcher in the Q&A.
However, after seeing the responses to the first book, which followed teenager Peter and his bond with a wild red fox named Pax, Pennypacker knew she had to write a follow-up.
“Journey Home” starts a year after the events of the first book, with Peter and Pax having gone in separate directions. Peter is a recently orphaned boy, and Pax is a new father to a litter of kits, one of which gets sick from poisoned water.
Pennypacker wanted to highlight the importance of clean drinking water, which is a “hot-button issue,” she said. She also wanted to explore themes of loss, grief and war, and their effect on children.
“I think this book heals, and I think it rounds out the story,” Pennypacker said. “It feels like it balances things that happened in the story, and I also feel the ending is way more settled.”
The story switches from Peter’s to Pax’s point of view, which Pennypacker said helped to pace the story, as well as show how interwoven the two characters are.
Pennypacker said she also felt it was important to show Peter as a child who had flaws and made mistakes, but was still complicated. She said she thinks people often underestimate children.
“As a writer, I have to say, ‘you’re going to make some mistakes, and I’m going to respect that and I’m going to let the world know why you’re doing it this way,’” she said. “And I’m going to just tell your story without telling you you’re wrong.”
Next for Pennypacker is a book she wrote in the last year, partly inspired by what she said was frustration with “the adults who are supposed to be running this country.” This novel, for which she is in the revision process, will return to the comedic tone Pennypacker is most known for in her “Clementine” series, she said.
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