Tackling Real-life Challenges in Books: Pax (ft. Sara Pennypacker, Colby Sharp, & Philippe Cousteau)
There is a magical age, somewhere between eight and twelve, where young people’s wonder at the natural world can be galvanized into meaningful engagement with the threats and challenges that humans bring to bear on nature. It is within this window that the right book at the right time can help a young person make sense of the big feelings that come with adolescence — and with unforeseen hardships, like global pandemics.
In this episode, with the help of Sara Pennypacker, author of Pax and Pax, Journey Home, Colby Sharp, literacy advocate and teacher, and Philippe Cousteau, co-author of The Endangereds series, we discuss the serious, real-life challenges that young readers face and how animal characters in books can help them identify and express their feelings of grief, loss, and trauma.
To learn more about Sara Pennypacker’s or Philippe Cousteau’s books, visit harpercollins.com/blogs/authors/sara-pennypacker
Do you have a story about how a classic book changed your life? Tweet @readingpod or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more at rememberreading.com. And, leave us a review on Apple Podcasts.
[2:33] The reaction Sara received from a group of fourth-graders after reading a chapter of Pax, led her to make changes to the original text.
[4:24] Sara prefers to write about how wounded children attempt to carry on and heal their wounds after trauma.
[5:18] A scene in the book, when Peter decides not to return to the therapist, spurs Colby to consider the state of his children post-pandemic.
[8:56] Sara describes why Pax is purposefully written to exclude a distinct time or place.
[12:07] After interviewing several animals, for Sara, there was no question the character Pax would be a fox.
[14:37] Philippe Cousteau describes his book series, The Endangereds and how learning from animals helps children identify with the major environmental crisis we face.
[18:17] How writers can introduce young readers to serious, real-world issues.
[20:02] Pax’s ending left readers with the opportunity to envision their version of what happens to the characters but as questions emerged Sara decided to write the sequel Pax, Journey Home.
[29:09] Colby’s non-fiction, Gamechanger, addresses the need to get books in the hands and minds of children.
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“There's nothing like a read-aloud on this planet, sharing a book with a bunch of kids in the classroom and having those conversations. And, I believe that kids in my class will remember our reading aloud of Pax for the rest of their life.” — Colby Sharp, literacy advocate and author
“'I’m not the writer who writes about the damage happening to kids. As a writer, I'm more interested in what they do afterward. So, I want to be really respectful of kids who have been wounded or have had losses in this way.” — Sara Pennypacker, author, Pax
“Passion and excitement and adventure need to be part of any good story. Those are kinds of universal rhetorical truths about storytelling that I drew from when working on The Endangereds. How could we tell stories that could make kids excited, but then also try to give them a little bit of agency?” — Philippe Cousteau, co-author of The Endangereds: Melting Point