While Hank Wolowitz’s family runs the Big Round Pumpkin, an ice cream shop, his life is anything but sweet as he starts fourth grade on a nervous note. His best friend, Wainscotting, moved away from their Brooklyn neighborhood, leaving Hank to start the year alone. Sure, Sasha Chin from his building is in his class, but she has her official friends in the class as well. Bully Bruno Gillicut begins stealing the best parts of Hank’s lunches as a sprinkie tax after Hank makes an embarrassing soccer mistake during gym class.
There’s another problem confronting Hank and it isn’t his imagination like his parents think. No, Hank’s problem is his newest friend, Inkling. Inkling’s invisible, but he’s not the imaginary friend Hank’s dad thinks he is. Inkling is also a bandapat, a furry creature that might be found in Peru or Ethiopia or the Ukraine (Inkling keeps changing the story). Hank rescued Inkling while out helping his older sister walk a bulldog named Rootbeer.
While Hank is trying to think of how to get squash for Inkling (as bandpats love squash and require it), Gillicut’s hazings escalate. Hank tells the lunch aides, his teacher, and his dad, but their advice and directions do not help. Inkling suggests plan after plan to help Hank against the bully, but most of these are fit for a jungle and not a school cafeteria. It isn’t until Hank says something he shouldn’t, something that will land him in even more trouble with Gillicut, that he agrees to try one of Inkling’s schemes.
I enjoyed Hank’s inventiveness, though I would never want to try one of the ice cream flavors he used to invent – especially not the caramel popcorn (though I could see someone liking marshmallow peep). He makes mistakes when he’s distracted, flustered or hurt. They are realistic mistakes for both children and adults. He realizes these mistakes and has to deal with the consequences. Some of this problems, such as dealing with a bully and conflicts with his family, are ones with which many children can related. Even the problems relating his most unusual companion Inkling are often ones kids might have dealing with a friend. Hank’s first person narration is on the witty side. I could see readers of Clementine and Hank Zipzer enjoying this book.
Inkling’s near misses with disaster, such as a grocery store incident when the bandapat couldn’t keep his teeth off the squash, lighten up the story. While Inkling can’t always be trusted to tell the truth, as evidenced by the multiple stories of where he came from, he makes Hank’s life very interesting.
I received an ARC of Invisible Inkling from a Goodreads giveaway.