Invisible Inkling, by Emily Jenkins,for MMGM
I know Halloween isn’t til next week, but on my new schedule I won’t be posting. So I hope you’ll all forgive me a slightly early Halloweenish post–starting with this very important PSA:
Beware of jack-o-lanterns which develop an appetite for candy! You never know when they’ll sneak into your stash and eat all the treats you planned to give cute little trick or treating kids.
There’s no good outcome when a pumpkin goes bad…so consider yourself forewarned, take the necessary precautions, and have a Happy Halloween from me and mine!
Today’s spotlighted book–Invisible Inkling–isn’t technically a Halloween story, but it felt like a good match to me. I’ll blame it on all the talk about pumpkins, since the ice cream shop which Hank’s parents own is called Big Round Pumpkin, and his new invisible friend has a serious squash craving that won’t be denied. And a Bandapat needs to keep up his strength, you know!
You can (sort of) see Inkling in Hank’s backpack, on the cover, though we don’t learn what Inkling looks like–exactly–til well into the book. Probably in the last third. This is because Inkling is a highly endangered Peruvian Bandapat, and as such is invisible. He’s too cute, you see, so he’d be irresistible if folks could see him. He comes to New York and shows up in Hank’s family’s ice cream shop in search of pumpkins, but his arrival is a lucky thing for Hank because he is about to start fourth grade without the benefit of his life-long buddy and best friend. This catastrophe is somewhat mitigated by Hank having Inkling to distract him at home, since the two quickly become fast friends.
Of course, that leaves Hank to navigate the realm of fourth on his own, and the navigating isn’t going too well. An unfortunate incident in soccer brings Hank to the attention of a school bully, Gillicut, and in the escalating battle between the boys, Hank discovers unpleasant depths within himself as well as unexpected allies and resources in himself.
The story does a wonderful job of balancing the realistic with the fantastic, blending it all together so that it comes to feel that perhaps there really do exist such creatures as Bandapats, and it seems quite reasonable that they would be invisible and consider themselves experts on the lunchroom scene, even if said expert advice backfires more than it doesn’t. I also felt the book did a great job of showing how a persons perception of bullying can shift depending on the lens brought to bear. Not that this book gives good advice to adults or kids on how to handle bullying–because frankly, it really doesn’t–but I did like the way it showed Hank realizing how quickly the ‘bully’ seesaw could shift. That’s not something I see often in middle grades.
Now, let’s get Apricot-kitty’s two cents:
“Do you really mean to tell me you have nothing to say about Hank’s father? He was quick enough to scold when Hank crossed the line, at school, but not so quick to help Hank out so the kid stayed comfortably back from the line, was he? I mean…really. Any cat with an attitude like that wouldn’t be worthy of her claws.”
I did mention being unimpressed with how the adults in the story handled the bullying, yes? Well, that’s all I want to say, cause I’m running the risk of dropping spoilers as is. ‘Sides, it’s my view that kids aren’t picking up Invisible Inkling for practical advice, and it does a decent job of illustrating the various things that won’t work, anyway. Oh, yes. And it also brought home to me that I–like my cat–am not a pacifist. And I’m entirely okay with that. 😉
Do you have any fun and not too scary Halloween books to recommend? Do you plan to dress up? I’m on the fence, myself, but will probably throw on a wig or pull something together. Because, Halloween!
For more Marvelous Middle Grade Monday spotlights, reviews, giveaways and interviews, stop by Shannon Messenger’s blog, and happy reading!