For once, I am stuck – much like the Rylance family in Kenneth Oppel ($17.99, HarperCollins) latest middle grade novel Inkling.

Like the father, Peter Rylance, I am blocked. I have so much to say about Inkling – how the story was sweet and sad and scary (but not in keep you awake at night scary, but scary because people are awful) and stressful (see prior bracket) and wonderful.

The main characters, a boy named Ethan and his little sister Sarah and Inkling himself, are amazing. Ethan is a super kind, thoughtful and smart kid who takes care of his little sister Sarah, becoming the parent when his father can’t. Sarah is sweet and Inkling is amazing, although only Ethan and Sarah seem to treat the creature like a person, who has thoughts and feelings and deserves respect and kindness. I found Peter lacking and frustrating in many ways. I know he has a mental illness and depression is awful, I certainly don’t envy anyone who deals with it, but at some point, when you are all your children have, you need to step up. The secondary characters were just awful, although one does come through in the end. And oh the end! So much to be said, but I won’t.

Then there is the fact that it is a book about books. Peter is a comic book creator and there are lots of books around, which we get to learn about through Inkling who absorbs the words and the pictures and changes the way he talks – and draws – according to what he has read. What a cool concept. Then there is the morals and lessons learned. Like I said so much to love.

A copy of this book was provided by HarperCollins for an honest review. The opinions are my own.

Book synopsis

The Rylance family is stuck. Dad’s got writer’s block. Ethan promised to illustrate a group project at school – even though he can’t draw. Sarah’s still pining for a puppy. And they all miss Mom. So much more than they can say.

Enter Inkling. Inkling begins life in Mr. Rylance’s sketchbook. But one night the ink of his drawings runs together – and then leaps off the page! This small burst of creativity is about to change everything.

Ethan finds him first. Inkling has absorbed a couple chapters of his math book – not good – and the story he’s supposed to be illustrating for school – also not good. But Inkling’s also started drawing the pictures to go with the story – which is amazing! It’s just the help Ethan was looking for! Inkling helps the rest of the family, too – for Sarah he’s a puppy. And for Dad he’s a spark of ideas for a new graphic novel. It’s exactly what they all want.

It’s not until Inkling goes missing that this family has to face the larger questions of what they- and Inkling – truly need.

Kenneth Oppel has given us a small masterpiece (agreed!) of middle-grade fiction. Inkling is funny and fizzy and exciting, and brimming with the kind of interesting ideas and dilemmas that kids will love to wrestle with. And Sydney Smith has created wonderfully inky illustrations to bring the story to vivid life. Get ready. A little ink blot is about to become your new favourite character!