Tuesday, November 20, 2018


36671127Oppel, Kenneth. Inkling
November 6th 2018 by Alfred A. Knopf BFYR
Copy provided by the publisher

Ethan's family is struggling after the death of his mother from cancer. Sarah, who has Down Syndrome, wants a puppy desperately, and has to rely on Ethan for much of her care. Their father, a comic books artist who killed off his most successful character, is stuck. He can't draw, he can barely get out of bed, and he finds it difficult to care for and interact with his children. When an ink blot comes out of his sketch books and is found by Ethan, Ethan thinks it might solve some of his problems. His classmates have assigned him to do the drawings for a school project, and he can't really draw well. Inkling, however, absorbs ink from the pages of books and uses that ink and the knowledge of design to create new artwork. After Ethan uses him, the father finds that Inkling can turn out new work for him, and this gives him hope even though it isn't a real solution. When someone tries to take Inkling and use him for evil, Ethan must get him back, but also find some more permanent solutions to his family's dysfunction.
Strengths: It's a fun concept-- an ink blot that learns and grows. The accompanying drawing add a bit to the story, but even more of them would have been great. Sarah's interactions with Ethan are realistic and nicely done.
Weaknesses: If families were portrayed as being unable to go on when they had a child with Down Syndrome or another condition, I don't think people would take kindly to that. It would be insulting to say that having a child with a difference is SO BAD that the family can't function. However, at least half the time a middle grade parent (or sibling or friend) dies in a story, parents becomes dysfunctional. I don't think this is realistic, and I do think it's insulting. It also occurred to me after reading this that I had about four friends who lost parents as children (in elementary school), and it was never a topic of conversation, and I never got the feeling that the family was sad and dysfunctional. I know, I know. I always complain about this, but there are SO MANY books where this occurs.
What I really think: Debating. This is rather slow and introspective, and there aren't as many pictures as there need to be for a true Notebook Novel. I'm not sure I have readers for it, but I'll show it to a few students and see what they think.
Ms. Yingling

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