Quirky from the outset, Kenneth Oppel’s latest offering Inkling is an innovative look at creativity, honesty and belonging. The story follows Ethan Rylance, the 11-year old son of a well-known graphic novel artist, who finds himself in need of inspiration when a school project pressures him to turn in an art project that is nothing short of amazing.
Then one day, a magical (and quite cheeky) creature called Inkling springs from the ink of his father’s sketchbook. Able to absorb and then morph this ink into impressive works of art, Inkling appears just in time to give a helping hand in Ethan’s time of need. As Inkling continues to cause creative chaos, Ethan starts to question whether or not he is taking advantage of someone who is quickly becoming a friend. Will he get to a point where he is too reliant on Inkling?
While the book is light-hearted and funny in places, it also deals with some serious issues. You learn throughout the story that Ethan has lost his mother to an illness, and we see his father struggle with not only the loss of his wife, but also his ability to create his graphic novels and provide for his family. Cleverly entwined with the main story, these important issues are brought up in a way that makes it easy for the reader to understand and form empathy for the characters.
All in all, Inkling is a weird and wonderful story, aimed at children aged 8-11. Its unusual concept makes for interesting reading, and at the same time provides a glimpse into a kind of life some of us won’t have seen before. With its focus on art and originality, this is a great book for anyone who can appreciate the power of imagination.