“Inkling" by Kenneth Oppel may not be wholly creative, but it’s still a really fun read that helped rekindle some of my forgotten child-like wonder. Any anyways, there are no new ideas under the sun, right?
Oppel's story of this ink-blob-come-to-life has the power to ping-pong in your brain, and make you look a little more suspiciously at blobs of ink. The ending genuinely surprised me, and I can’t help but wonder how Oppel will continue his ideas in the potential sequel.
I had many reactions while reading this novel. I chuckled, and then I very-nearly shed a tear, and then I gasped – in that order. While this book is geared towards children aged 9 and up, I would hesitate to read it comfortably, as is, with that age group. Ages 11 and up would be a better bet. However, if I were to read it to the younger audience (even ages 11 and up), I might find myself changing a few words along the way. Oppel uses some mild language that some families might consider rude, if said aloud - such as: “idiot, dimwit, crap, stupid, jerk, freakin’, heck”. At one point, the main character refers to a child as a demon – in response to that child acting wildly during a birthday party. Now, keep in mind that any time words are taken out of context, they often seem much worse than they actually are. I don’t think that the use of these words warrants
a book-boycott, but I do throw out a caution if reading this book aloud. Remember, you have the power to change these words to something that might better suit your family’s vocabulary.
I loved the illustrations in this novel. Drawing, and learning how to have
confidence in your artistic abilities, is a theme woven throughout Oppel's story. While the main character cannot draw as well as his graphic-novel artist father, he learns to be okay with own talents and skills. I love this message, and I hope that any child reading through this novel will come away with that same confidence in their abilities.
The main character, Ethan, is a great example for students to look up to, as he treats his little sister, who has Down syndrome, with immense love. He's also a good friend throughout the book.
If you choose to read this book as a class novel study you might have to "edit" some of Oppel’s vocabulary, but you’ll also have tons of fun. The characters are funny and full of life, and Oppel’s themes offer excellent opportunities for text-to-text, text-to-self, and text-to-world engagement. This book includes themes of friendship, family, grief, and honesty. Not only will your students have plenty to relate to, but you’ll also have the option of adding art and literature extensions to your novel study. The character of Inkling often speaks like other famous characters, such as the Big Friendly Giant, or Anne of Green Gables.
This book is a fun read, but you may have to “edit” along the way if you're reading to younger children.