Published: Sept. 2018
Ethan’s dad is the creator of the famous comic book superhero Kren. But he hasn’t drawn anything for ages. Meanwhile, Ethan’s classmates expect Ethan to illustrate a fantastic graphic novel for their upcoming group projects, just because his dad can draw. Then an ink blob from his dad’s sketchbook comes to life. Both Ethan and his dad want Inkling to solve their problems. But there are others who want Inkling, too. Illustrations by Sydney Smith.
Inkling is a fun middle-grade adventure starring a sentient ink blob who seems to be the answer to all the Rylance family’s problems. Ethan is struggling to illustrate his group’s graphic novel for school (because, well, he can’t draw) while his father, a famous comic book illustrator, has not submitted anything for publication in ages. But Inkling, an ink blog from Ethan’s father’s sketchbook, can draw! And soon both Ethan and his father want Inkling to do their work for them. Mishaps and mayhem ensue as the Rylances attempt to protect their secret.
This is precisely the sort of book that I can see appealing to children as they imagine what could happen when an ink blob comes to life. Inkling delights in eating words and has a tendency to begin speaking like the characters he reads about–er, eats. His favorite food is comic books, though Ethan thinks they make Inkling excitable and should be mainly a treat. At any rate, the end result is that readers will have fun guessing what books Inkling has been reading and seeing what characters and plots he decides to draw–sometimes all over the walls! With art, the story suggests, the possibilities are endless.
Of course, the book includes the standard villains out to steal Inkling and to make him draw for them. However, the heart of the story really lies in the possibility Inkling represents. Though Ethan and his dad see Inkling as a way to draw their way to success, Inkling is more concerned with the ways art and words and stories can bring people together. He represents not only the excitement of art but also the communicative aspect of art.
In the end, I admit I was not terribly excited or overwhelmed by Inkling. Mostly I see it as a solid middle-grade story that will probably be received with more enthusiasm by readers in its intended age range. However, I do appreciate the celebration of art as well as the way in which the text and illustrations come together to create a fun story about drawing. Readers looking for a feel-good story about art and family will enjoy Inkling.