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Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Inkling, by Kenneth Oppel, with illustrations by Sydney Smith. Harper, 2018. $17.99 ages 8 and up

"Inkling wrote:
Since getting home, Inkling had
made a snack of the sports section
of the newspaper, and the way he
talked had changed again.
"How should we do this?"
Ethan uncapped his best ]
marker, studying the next
panel. In his imagination, he
could picture it exactly."

The cat saw the birth of the ink splotch that becomes Inkling. He watched as the ink on the page that Ethan's father had been drawing pulled itself up and move off. It found its way to Ethan's bedroom where it began consuming the ink from his textbooks. Discovered by Ethan the following morning, and named Inkling, it becomes a driving force in changes for the entire Rylance family. And it becomes a 'he' ... a fully realized character. It takes no time to believe in Inkling as an entity, capable of kindness, understanding and thought.

Mr. Rylance has a problem. Since the death of his wife two years ago, he has been in a writing (and living) slump. The responsibilities he feels for his family and their well-being are overwhelming for him and he spends many days ineffectually. Ethan has a problem. His writing group at school believes that, since his father is a famous graphic artist, he must have inherited his artistic ability. His task is to draw the art for their project. He doesn't know how to tell them he cannot do it. Ethan's sister Sarah, who has Down's Syndrome, has a problem. She wants a pet in the worst way and is making no headway with her father toward getting one. It is a house in turmoil.

Along comes Inkling, with a kind heart and a thoughtful disposition, and a unique ability to help. He knows how to read and can communicate by using the ink he consumes to form words on paper. The fact that he takes on the writing style of the books he reads offers some very funny moments. His ability to help each family member find their way is heartwarming.

When he is kidnapped by one of Ethan's classmates, the family is forced to deal with the trauma of the loss of their wife and mother. By the time Inkling returns to his beginnings, each member of the family has changed. It is quite the tale of love, loss, and healing.

This is another terrific readaloud for a middle years classroom. Beautifully written and absolutely memorable.

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