BOC staff book group will be reading PAX by Sara Pennypacker on 3rd March 18.

BOC staff book group will be reading PAX by Sara Pennypacker on Thursday 8th March 2018 12 – 1 pm in Committee Room 1.


‘I slowly made my way through this book and I wanted it to last forever, because it was simply the most calming and beautiful thing I have ever read’  (The Guardian)

Compelling, heartrending story of boy and fox in dystopia. (

Foxes are fable animals: Their fur carries the electric charge of literary history. As with cats, their faces suggest they have no need of us, and in literature they have all the power that goes with independence.

The novel is told through alternating chapters, with one strand following 12-year-old Peter and the other Pax, as each grows wilder and tougher. After the death of his mother, we learn, Peter had rescued a baby fox from the cold and reared it as a pet and friend. When his father enlists in an unspecified war (“It’s heading for our town. They’ll take the river”), Peter is sent to live with his grandfather, and Pax is sent into the wild, the car speeding away as he watches in bewilderment.

In the opening chapters Peter rebels, slipping out in the night to walk 200 miles back to the spot where Pax was released. What follows is, structurally, a classic quest narrative; Peter walks through dark woods both literally and metaphorically, breaks his foot, encounters characters who help or threaten him. The most vivid of these is Vola, a female war veteran with a prosthetic leg who takes Peter in, and together they face down their own traumas: the suffering of war, physical pain and inherited anger. What makes the book truly remarkable are two things: the quality of Pennypacker’s prose, which is sharp and restless and vulpine, and the pull of the love between Peter and Pax.

There are resonances in this love of Katherine Applegate’s Newbery Medal-winning “The One and Only Ivan,” which shares the intimate use of the animal voice. “Pax” also offers a meditation on the bond between children and animals, and how the longing for closeness to the animal world shapes childhood: the desire to touch, to squeeze, to be loyal to something as familiar and as unknowable as a pet.

Of course, for a writer to give voice to an animal is to purport to offer up a secret, and the difficulty becomes how to tell it without shading into cuteness. Many writers, even Kipling, have failed, in books in which the animal becomes the mouthpiece for the moral. Like Applegate and E. B. White before her, Pennypacker succeeds. In an author’s note, she explains that “fox communication is a complex system of vocalization, gesture, scent and expression. The ‘dialogue’ in italics in Pax’s chapters attempts to translate their eloquent language.” Pennypacker, the author of several well-regarded books for children, including the “Clementine” early chapter-book series, uses the chapters in which Pax speaks to deliver something more, too: a sense of enchantment in a landscape freshly discovered, as Pax explores the natural world for the first time in the company of feral foxes. “Pax” is not comparable tonally to “Charlotte’s Web” — it has less irony and wit and a less insouciant protagonist — but Pennypacker does share White’s resistance to sentimentality, offering in its place a pragmatic kind of awe. White wrote that he “always felt charged with the safekeeping of all unexpected items of worldly or unworldly enchantment, as though I might be held personally responsible if even one were to be lost.” In this aspect, Pennypacker, with “Pax,” may be his heir.

The book is illustrated by the Caldecott Medal winner Jon Klassen, whose style is a perfect fit. His sharpness of line maps onto the jagged, sharp-edged quality of growing up, which Peter must do. In the end, Peter builds himself back up from scratches and mistakes, piecemeal, and ends the journey braver and bolder and wiser than he began it. “Pax” the book is like Pax the fox: half wild and wholly beautiful.


By Sara Pennypacker

Illustrated by Jon Klassen

276 pp. Balzer & Bray/HarperCollins ­Publishers. $16.99. (Middle grade; ages 8 to 12)




BOC staff book group will be reading: A Cat, a Hat, and a Piece of String by Joanne Harris on Thursday 15th June.

BOC staff book group will be meeting on Thursday 15th June at 12-1pm ( room to be confirmed).

university of chichester logo

We will be reading a collection of short stories by Joanne Harris: A Cat, a Hat, and a Piece of String.

a cat, a hat and a piece of string

Stories are like Russian dolls; open them up, and in each one you’ll find another story.

Conjured from a wickedly imaginative pen, here is a new collection of short stories that showcases Joanne Harris’s exceptional talent as a teller of tales, a spinner of yarns. Sensuous, mischievous, uproarious and wry, these are tales that combine the everyday with the unexpected; wild fantasy with bittersweet reality.

Come to the house where it is Christmas all year round; meet the ghost who lives on a Twitter timeline; be spooked by a new-born baby created with sugar, spice and lashings of cake. Worry for a young girl in the Congo who rides the rapids to earn a crust of bread; and spy on Norse gods battling each other for survival in modern Manhattan. In her first short-story collection since Jigs & Reels, let Joanne Harris ensnare and delight you with the variety and inventiveness of her storytelling.

joanne harris

Joanne Harris is an Anglo-French author, whose books include fourteen novels, two cookbooks and many short stories.

Her work is extremely diverse, covering aspects of magic realism, suspense, historical fiction, mythology and fantasy. She has also written a DR WHO novella for the BBC, has scripted guest episodes for the game ZOMBIES, RUN!, and is currently engaged in a number of musical theatre projects as well as developing an original drama for television.

In 2000, her 1999 novel CHOCOLAT was adapted to the screen, starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp. She is an honorary Fellow of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, and in 2013 was awarded an MBE by the Queen.

Her hobbies are listed in Who’s Who as ‘mooching, lounging, strutting, strumming, priest-baiting and quiet subversion’. Joanne also spends too much time on Twitter; plays flute and bass guitar in a band first formed when she was 16; and works from a shed in her garden at her home in Yorkshire. (I’d love a shed!)

We’re really looking forward to reading this collection.

Watch this space for our comments.

university of chichester logo

Please share your comments below.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr for January 2017 BOOK GROUP at BOC.

The next book we will be discussing at the Bishop Otter campus ( BOC) BOOK GROUP will be: ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr.

Thursday 26th January 2017 in UH2 at BOC 12-1pm



A beautiful, stunningly ambitious novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II

‘Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.’

For Marie-Laure, blind since the age of six, the world is full of mazes. The miniature of a Paris neighbourhood, made by her father to teach her the way home. The microscopic layers within the invaluable diamond that her father guards in the Museum of Natural History. The walled city by the sea, where father and daughter take refuge when the Nazis invade Paris. And a future which draws her ever closer to Werner, a German orphan, destined to labour in the mines until a broken radio fills his life with possibility and brings him to the notice of the Hitler Youth.

In this magnificent, deeply moving novel, the stories of
Marie-Laure and Werner illuminate the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.


Anthony Doerr is the author of four books, The Shell Collector, About Grace, Four Seasons in Rome, and Memory Wall. His work has won numerous prizes in the U.S., including the Rome Prize, The New York Public Library’s Young Lions Awards, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2007, Granta named Doerr one of the Best Young American Novelists, and in 2011, his story “The Deep” won the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award. He lives in the mountains in Boise, Idaho with his wife and two young sons.

Any comments about the book? Please feel free to add to our blog.



NOVEMBER BOOK GROUP – latest news!

University of Chichester’s staff book group will be starting again next semester in NOVEMBER 2016.


Bishop Otter will now be holding their book group on Thursdays, so we won’t be able to Skype them. However the BRC Book Group have agreed that they will choose their own books for the Bognor group to read, but if possible the Bishop Otter group might read the same one as them. Therefore the 2 books groups can still keep in touch via the BLOG.

The next book BOTH groups will be reading in November is:

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.



Chimamanda-Ngozi-Adichie--010Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

From the award-winning author of ‘Half of a Yellow Sun,’ a powerful story of love, race and identity.

As teenagers in Lagos, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship, and people are fleeing the country if they can. The self-assured Ifemelu departs for America. There she suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships, all the while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home: race. Obinze had hoped to join her, but post-9/11 America will not let him in, and he plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London.

We all wish race was not an issue, says Ifemelu, talking about inter-racial relationships at a polite Manhattan dinner party, the day after Obama becomes the presidential candidate: “But it’s a lie. I came from a country where race was not an issue, I did not think of myself as black and I only became black when I came to America.”

Hope you enjoy reading it. And looking forward to our discussion in November ( date and room TBC)

Please feel free to post any comments you have.

Happy Reading!

see you soon

university of chichester logo