Ages: 8 - 12Publisher: Random House Author: Kenneth OppelIllustrator: Sydney Smith


Ethan is a fraud. He may be the son of graphic novelist legend Peter Rylance, but Ethan cannot draw. Unfortunately, none of his friends believe this, so they assume he will be doing the drawings for their English class group graphic novel project. But Ethan’s troubles run deeper than his lack of drawing abilities. Ever since Ethan’s mother died, Ethan’s father has been unable to draw. He seems unable to do much of anything, actually, including taking care of Ethan and his little sister. Ethan needs help. And help arrives, in an unlikely form. One night, a blob of ink crawls out of Peter Rylance’s sketchbook. Ethan soon discovers that Inkling will absorb any kind of ink he is given—comic books, novels, and homework. More astonishingly, Inkling can reproduce and imitate whatever he has eaten. Soon, he is drawing Ethan’s graphic novel assignment, and offering Peter Rylance a way out of his artist’s block. Ethan begins to worry, though. Aren’t he and his father cheating? Are they overworking Inkling? And what will happen when Mr. Rylance’s greedy publisher learns about Inkling?

This charming novel provides a slight twist on the classic storyline of a grief-stricken family who need to re-learn how to take care of each other. Ethan and Mr. Rylance are simultaneously sympathetic and flawed. The reader can see through their weak justifications for using and abusing Inkling, even as we also recognize the characters’ genuine dilemmas. Inkling himself is a lovable character, enchanted with the world of words and art that he digests and produces. Inkling and Ethan both display a certain degree of aesthetic snobbery about the quality of children’s novels and comic books which seems slightly preachy and out of place in a book about a graphic novelist. Nevertheless, young readers will be pleased by this whimsical, heartwarming fantasy.

Naomi Lesley ©2019 Parents’ Choice

Naomi Lesley taught middle and high school English for six years. She is currently in a doctoral program at the George Washington University, focusing on American young adult literature.

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