Inkling by Kenneth Oppel, with illustrations by Sydney Smith. Yearling, 2020. 9781524772840
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5
What did you like about the book? This ink-spot covered book is about creativity and grief. Twelve year old Ethan is supposed to provide the illustrations for his group’s graphic novel project, but he can’t draw. Ethan’s father is a graphic novelist, but he can’t draw right now either – he is blocked. The whole family, including sister Sarah who has autism, is still reeling from the death of the kids’ mom. It becomes evident that Ethan’s dad is depressed and grieving, which shows in his inability to parent or to create. When ink coalesces into a sentient creature that eats ink and draws with it, both father and son are elated. Inkling helps Ethan with his school project; his father harnesses Inkling’s powers to start drawing again. But neither father nor son are being completely honest with the world about how they are managing to create. Inkling is funny and sensitive and becomes a friend to Ethan. It is easy to suspend belief and believe in Inkling’s existence, and although the book is marketed as humor, the comedy is offset by school and family drama which is mostly cringe-worthy, but in a good way. The big crisis happens when Ethan’s school nemesis, Vika, steals Inkling to give to her dad, who is Ethan’s dad’s publisher. There is exciting nighttime burgling and a sinister rogue inkblot who develops while Inkling is in captivity. The numerous ink spots and spot illustrations add fun details and make it really fun to read.
Anything you didn’t like about it? No
To whom would you recommend this book? For middle grade readers who like books about creativity, or who are fans of the author.
Who should buy this book? Middle schools and public libraries
Where would you shelve it ? Fiction
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA
Date of review: April 30, 2020