cover image Inkling


Kenneth Oppel, illus. by Sydney Smith. Knopf, $17.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-5247-7281-9

With none but Rickman the cat awake to see it, a blob of ink wrenches itself free from a sketchbook and begins munching its way through a nearby math textbook, “slurp[ing] the ink into itself” and leaving a blank, shiny page in its wake. Ethan, the son of a once-successful graphic novelist, discovers the blotch (and its skillful contribution to his graphic novel assignment) and names it Inkling. As Inkling consumes print media, expanding and learning with each absorbed word and image, Ethan and his family—especially his sister, Sarah, who has Down syndrome—become more attached to the lovable creature, whose upbeat personality provides a distraction from their grief over the loss of Ethan and Sarah’s mother. But keeping Inkling and using it to make art poses ethical questions for Ethan and his father, not to mention for a company looking to turn business around. Gray-scale illustrations by Smith (Town Is by the Sea) ground readers in the medium through which Ethan and Inkling communicate. Inkling’s evolving abilities model a realistic creative arc—the creature mimics its most recent literary meal (“I’M UTTERLY ENRAPTURED” follows a stint with L.M. Montgomery) until it eventually discovers its own voice—even as the other characters work through grief and find their own stories. Ages 8-12. [em](Nov.) [/em]