Pax (2016) by Sara Pennypacker
Pax is Peter's fox--has been since the young fox was just a few weeks old. And the two have been inseparable. Until now. Now war rages and Peter's dad has to join the forces and use his wiring skills to beat the enemy. Peter's mother died several years ago (not long before he found the fox kit) and so Peter must go and stay with his prickly grandfather. But Pax isn't welcome and his father insists that it's time the fox was returned to the wild anyway. So, they abandon Pax in a location that Peter believes will be safe and the boy is taken 300 miles away.
As soon as he settles into his new room for the night, Peter knows he isn't where he should be. His place is with Pax and he knows Pax needs him. The fox was tamed and never learned how to hunt or cope in the wild. His friend will never survive without him. So after his grandfather goes to bed, Peter packs a knapsack with everything he can think of to help him on the journey and sets off to find his pet. He has studied an atlas and sees a way across country that will save him about a hundred miles--but the terrain is difficult and he finds himself in trouble and hobbling along on a damaged leg. Fortunately, he stumbles onto land that belongs to a hermit-like woman by the name of Vola who takes him in (grudgingly at first), nurses him back to health, teaches him a few life lessons, and helps him continue his journey. But the area where Pax was abandoned isn't as safe as Peter thought and the war is approaching. Will Peter be in time?
Meanwhile, Pax, sure that his human will come back to him is reluctant to leave the area where Peter left him. But he must eat and he must find water and in his search he encounters other foxes--foxes that teach him a few life lessons as well as teaching him to hunt and defend himself. Both Pax and Peter learn about what truly makes a family and how to be true to one's deepest self. Excellent children's story with complicated themes. ★★★★
First line: The fox felt the car slow before the boy did, as he felt everything first.
What I am is for telling the truth about it. About what it costs. People should tell the truth about what war costs. (Vola; p. 130)
Last line: And Peter hurled the plastic soldier over the brush and into the woods, as far away as he could.