Fourth-grader Hank Wolowitz is having a tough year. His best friend moved away just before the start of the school year, his family has money troubles, and he is being bullied at school by a classmate who steals all the best parts of his lunch every day. He knows that he sometimes has an “overbusy” imagination, but he is quite sure that he isn’t imagining that a small, furry, invisible animal is living in his laundry basket. This animal calls itself Inkling, says that it’s an endangered bandapat from Peru, (or Ukraine, or Ethiopia, depending on what day it is), and that it traveled to Brooklyn in search of squash. When Hank rescues the creature from the neighbor’s dog, Inkling decides that he owes him his life, and that he can’t leave until he repays the debt. And Hank can certainly use a friend. His growing relationship with Inkling helps him face many issues, but the situation with the classroom bully continues to deteriorate. When Hank can’t get any help from the indifferent lunchroom aides, his oblivious teacher, or his pacifist parents, Inkling decides that solving the problem for him will be a way to repay his debt.
With its quick pace, engaging narrator, and quirky story line, this humourous tale is sure to please. Kids will certainly identify with Hank, who just wants to get through his school days peacefully. Aside from the invisible animal aspect, the story feels utterly realistic, and deals with situations faced by students every day. While as a teacher, I am uneasy with the treatment of bullying in the book, and in particular by the lack of reaction by Hank’s school regarding the bullying issue, I feel the portrayal given is both realistic and all too often accurate. The book avoids the too pat resolution of Hank’s problem being solved by the bully’s reformation, and takes a more realistic approach. Particularly satisfying at the end is Hank’s growth, when he recognizes that he can take positive action regarding some of his problems, and he assumes the responsibility of working in his parents shop. Inkling’s decision to stay with Hank leaves room for sequels, and, as the book says, when you have an invisible friend “anything can happen next.” Overall, this is an enjoyable story that will have readers happily hoping for more.
Recommended by: Linda Lucke, Learning Center Director, Illinois, USA
“My hand finally hits quivering fur and I can feel Inkling, shaking and limp, squeezed between two bins of granola. I’m so relieved I want to cry, but instead I pick him up. He crawls slowly onto my back, moving as if he’s bruised all over.”
On a hot sticky Labor Day weekend, Hank discovers an invisible bandapat in his parents’ ice cream store. He isn’t really sure he felt the furry invisible thing until later when he saves the bandapat, Inkling, from a neighbor’s dog, who can smell but not see Inkling. Inkling would stay in Brooklyn if only to pay back Hank for saving his life, and if he can get some squash to eat. Now Hank has an invisible, not imaginary, friend who owes him a favor. Which Hank is going to need because Bruno Gillicut keeps taking part of his lunch. Hank solves his bully problems and his friendship problems, with the help of invisible Inkling. This is an entertaining story about facing bullies, even if you need the help of an invisible friend.
Recommended by Alice Cyphers, Librarian, Pennsylvania, USA