Emily Jenkins. Invisible Inkling. Illus. Harry Bliss. Balzer + Bray – HarperCollins, 2011.
Hank Wolowitz knows he has “an overbusy imagination,” but the creature stealing ice cream cones from his parents’ shop and hanging out in Hank’s laundry basket is not imaginary—he’s invisible. Inkling is an invisible bandapat, an endangered species from the Peruvian Woods of Mystery. Or is it the glaciers of Hungary? Either way, he may be just what Hank needs now that his best friend moved to Iowa. More importantly, Inkling may be the very thing to help Hank deal with Bruno Gillicut, the fourth-grade bully.
This is a sweet, funny story about a kid trying to survive his new friend’s crazy schemes. Some of the illustrations remind me of Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts” comics—especially whenever Hank has a look of surprise. And just like in “Peanuts,” the kids in this story have to figure out their own solutions to problems. While the adults in Charlie Brown’s world are almost nonexistent, the adults in Hank’s world are simply unhelpful.
In fact, that’s one big problem with this story—the adults are not only clueless about much of Bruno’s bullying, they seem almost unwilling to do anything about him. Hank’s teacher thinks “bully” is a dirty word, and insists that Bruno isn’t so bad, even when he tackles Hank right in front of her. Hank’s father, meanwhile, thinks being a “pacifist” means not even letting your kids take karate lessons. Even when he does see Hank getting picked on, he does nothing.
With all the talk of bullying in the news, I would hope that real-life teachers are much better trained to help their students. Parents, too, might want to read this book with their kids and discuss what they think is the best way to deal with a bully.
Overall, though, Invisible Inkling is a fun read. I think younger readers especially will find Hank very relatable, and older readers will remember themselves or someone they knew at that age—someone who also liked to play secret agents, or wished there was an ice cream flavor called “Cotton-candy Gummi worm,” or who couldn’t help getting “underfoot” when his parents were busy.