Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Invisible Inkling

Invisible Inkling
Emily Jenkins
Harry Bliss (illustrator)
Harper Collins, 2011  154 pgs
Grades 2-5

Hank faces the beginning of a new school year without his best friend, who has moved away from his Brooklyn home.  Hank's boredom and loneliness come to an end when the neighbor's dog attacks what appears to be nothing.  Further investigation reveals a soft & furry something, but what?  After saving the nothing from the dog, Hank takes the creature home, who confesses to being an rare Bandapat, an invisible and endangered specials from lands far away.  Because of the rescue from the dog, the bandipat, who introduces himself as Inkling, pledges to return the favor before moving on.  Inkling and Hank strike up a friendship and Hank begins to feel a bit happier and miss his old friend less.  Inkling discloses his need for eating various kinds of squash and Hank attempts to acquire some for him, although his lack of money leads to several failed attempts.  Hank longs to see the appearance of his new friend, but Inkling claims it is impossible.  Quite by accident Hank discovers that he can see the reflection of Inkling in mirrors and tricks him into a full reveal.  Inkling becomes angry, the friendship is compromised, and Inkling threatens to leave Brooklyn for a Pumpkin farm in upstate New York.  After repetitive attacks by the school bully Inkling thinks he knows how to return the owed favor and hit the road.  He tries to help Hank, but the results turn out in an unpredictable and humorous fashion, landing Hank in even more trouble.

Invisible Inkling (first in a series of the same name) is a perfect choice for children ready to move up from introductory chapter books (such as magic tree house) but not ready for long and meatier ones.  The large print, wide margins, generous dialog, and comic-style illustrations ensure a quick and accessible read.  Gentle humor is liberally sprinkled throughout the book.  The real-life problems Hank (and the bully) face will resound with kids and they will feel apathy for the well drawn characters.  Any book with a bullying theme is hot right now, so Invisible Inkling has a ready-made audience.  My one complaint with the book is that all the adults who Hank approaches for help with the bully problem prove to be ineffectual.  This is a minor quibble because the useless adults are necessary for Inkling to sweep in and save the day.  It just doesn't help children facing similar problems at school, who may not have an invisible friend to bite the bully on the leg.  The bully turns out to be a regular and troubled young man, but its too bad that it takes an act of violence for this to be revealed.  Although the question arises: Is Inkling real or imaginary?  The author leaves the answer up to the reader.  By the book's end Hank realizes he had a friend all along in Chin, the girl who lives in his building.  Will he still need Inkling?  Apparently. because there are two other books in the series.  Both boys and girls will relate to this book and it is a great choice for reluctant readers.  Fun, fluffy and featuring a creative main character, Invisible Inkling will appeal to both readers who struggle to fit in or and those who just want to be entertained.

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