I received this book for free from Knopf Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Inkling by Kenneth Oppel
Published by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers on November 6th, 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Magic, Middle Grade
Source: Knopf Books for Young Readers
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The Rylance family is stuck. Dad's got writer's block. Ethan promised to illustrate a group project at school--even though he can't draw. Sarah's still pining for a puppy. And they all miss Mom. So much more than they can say.
Enter Inkling. Inkling begins life in Mr. Rylance's sketchbook. But one night the ink of his drawings runs together--and then leaps off the page! This small burst of creativity is about to change everything.
Ethan finds him first. Inkling has absorbed a couple chapters of his math book--not good--and the story he's supposed to be illustrating for school--also not good. But Inkling's also started drawing the pictures to go with the story--which is amazing! It's just the help Ethan was looking for! Inkling helps the rest of the family too--for Sarah he's a puppy. And for Dad he's a spark of ideas for a new graphic novel. It's exactly what they all want.
It's not until Inkling goes missing that this family has to face the larger questions of what they--and Inkling--truly need.
Kenneth Oppel has given us a small masterpiece of middle-grade fiction. Inkling is funny and fizzy and exciting, and brimming with the kind of interesting ideas and dilemmas that kids will love to wrestle with. And Sydney Smith is creating wonderfully inky illustrations to bring the story to vivid life. Get ready. A little ink blot is about to become your new favorite character!
I love Kenneth Oppel. I’ve been reading him since I was but a wee lass (middle school.) I was extremely excited to read Inkling but honestly, it didn’t live up to my expectations. It’s not that it isn’t a good book, but Kenneth Oppel is not a writer of good books, he is a writer of excellent books and nothing about this book in particular screamed excellent too me.
Don’t get me wrong, it has a lot going for it, but I think I never really connected to the characters and perhaps I am just too fucking old now to appreciate adorable monsters created from Ink.
Ethan has a hard-knock life. His mother passed away a while ago and his father does not know how to function as a human being let alone how to function as a good parent. His father is also, probably, depressed (this is not expressed in the book so much as shown which is why I say probably.) Ethan is just a pre-teen in middle school but somehow he is in charge of caring for his younger sister & himself and trying to do his art homework without any help from his dad who is AN ARTIST.
I kid just a little bit with the last part, but really, Ethan does not know how to draw and is somehow landed the roll of sketching for his school project because everyone assumes he is good at art. JUST BECAUSE HIS DAD IS AN ARTIST DOESN’T MEAN HE IS. Poor Ethan. But, the world is a magical place and an ink-blot that emerges from his father’s sketchbook soon becomes Ethan’s art teacher. This ink-blot changes Ethan and his life forever and ever.
So, anyway, while I couldn’t really get behind the ink-blot, I did enjoy the relationship between Ethan, his little sister and the ink-blot. It was super cute even if I was definitely not the intended audience.
My biggest issue is that while there is a redeeming arc for the father, I really just didn’t think he was all that great. He tries but it’s so half-assed and not really exciting. He is also just a big jerk sometimes and I think part of it is that he is likely depressed but, it isn’t addressed as much within the book so I didn’t know what to make of him and just continued disliking him.
This book is already critically acclaimed so I think it all just comes down to what you want from a middle grade novel. I didn’t think this hit all the notes for me (and I am not even sure what some of those missing notes were, lol), butttt I DID enjoy it. It is Kenneth Oppel and its seriously unlikely I’d dislike a book he has written. SO READ IT IF YOU WILL. Don’t read it if you don’t want to. Do whatever you want. Eat a cake.
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I’ve only read a couple Kenneth Oppel books, but I did enjoy them a bit. This does sound like a really fun and promising premise, so I’m sorry to hear it didn’t pan out! I’m there was a good relationship between Ethan and his sister, I always enjoy good sibling relationships. Great review!