Kenneth Oppel has given us an uplifting story, at once magical and grounded in a very real world.

Ethan needs help. Following the loss of Ethan’s mum, his dad finds himself unable to break the writer’s block that keeps him from writing and illustrating his successful ‘Kren’ graphic novels. Add to that the fact that Ethan is doing the lion’s share of parenting his little sister and has also to deliver the illustrations for a class project, and Ethan is in over his head. But when, miraculously, a living, sentient creature made of ink frees itself from Dad’s project board, maybe help is finally at hand.

Kenneth Oppel has created a contemporary fairy tale for a modern Middle Grade audience. With a nod to the story of the Shoemaker and the Elves, Oppel has situated what is an otherwise sombre story in a magical and fairy tale context to great effect. The story is grounded in a very real world, and touches on grief, adult depression, school pressures and disability, yet remains uplifting and, ultimately, optimistic. The spritely, magical Inkling is Ethan’s guide through life’s adversities. He’s a fun and lively presence making this a pleasure for 10- to 12-year-olds to read.