A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Inkling is a thoughtful and creative read by Kenneth Oppel, the acclaimed Canadian author of The Nest, The Boundless, and Every Hidden Thing. As in The Nest, there are themes of loss mixed with fantasy elements. Here, Ethan, a middle schooler, has lost his mother. His grieving father's sketchbook spits out Inkling, a sentient blob of ink that can move, communicate, devour books, and draw. Violence is mild beyond the memories of a mother lost to sickness. Inkling is nearly devoured, and Ethan fears suffocation. The only other mature content: Dad drinks wine every evening. Ethan struggles with doing the right thing when he discovers that Inkling can do his drawing work for a school project much better than he can. In other ways, he's a patient, kind, and responsible brother to his younger sister with Down syndrome. Inkling encourages a healthy media diet -- not just fun comic books -- to turn kids into thoughtful humans. Many great books are mentioned.
What's the story?
In INKLING, a blob of ink escapes from a comic book artist's sketchbook late one night. He's chased by a cranky old cat into a boy's room, where he begins to feed on words. He finds the boy's school project, a comic book, and fills in his stick figures with detailed art. The boy, Ethan, finds the art and is amazed -- just as he is when he meets this blob of ink that can write words to talk (thanks to his book diet). He decides to call him Inkling and is tempted to keep him all to himself. Except that his father, the famous comic book artist, has had a creative block ever since his wife (Ethan's mother) died. Inkling broke free of Dad's sketchbook and can even see into his dreams, which are sad and haunted by his loss. Ethan decides to share Inkling with his dad, to see if it helps him create again. They both rely on Inkling until he goes missing under suspicious circumstances.
Is it any good?
A cute ink blob explores the mystery of the creative process and brings a mourning family together in this compelling novel. Acclaimed Canadian children's author Kenneth Oppel has done a similar melding of fantasy and family loss elements before in The Nest, but this one doesn't have the same creepy edge. This ink blob is a far more lovable creature than The Nest's strange angel-wasps. And one that brings a Mary Poppins sense of magic into the family's lives.
Sarah, the sister with Down syndrome, benefits the most from Inkling's sense of whimsy. Ethan and his father benefit from his skill and his drive to find a family secret that can heal them. When Inkling goes missing, the loss feels more profound; this family doesn't need another setback. But like Mary Poppins, Inkling's goal is to bring them together before he disappears, and to make them self-reliant and whole again. Inkling is a poignant and succinct read with some clever touches. The ending feels a little predictable, but satisfies on an emotional level.
Talk to your kids about ...
- Author: Kenneth Oppel
- Illustrator: Sydney Smith
- Genre: Family Life
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Superheroes, Book Characters, Brothers and Sisters, Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Great Boy Role Models, Middle School
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Knopf
- Publication date: November 6, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 272
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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