When The Ink Drinker was first published in translation in from the original French in 1998, it appeared as a beautiful little hardcover with vibrant illustrations. The rest of the series, A Straw for Two, The City of Ink Drinkers and Little Red Ink Drinker, appeared in succession to make a quartet. Sadly, only The Ink Drinker is still available, but it arrives in a very reasonable paperback edition, packaged now as a Random House "Stepping Stones" book, bridge between easy beginning reader books and higher level chapter books like the ubiquitous Magic Tree House and Junie B. Jones series.
The narrator, Odilon, who's name we don't learn until the second book, is the very unhappy child of a bookstore owner. He is unhappy because he hates to read, hates books, and he is surrounded by them at home and at work. It is summer vacation and he is is working in his father's store. Because he likes the sound of paper being torn, his father won't let him do anything involving books. The only job left is to watch for shoplifters. However, when he sees one he always looks the other way. It pleases him to know there is one less book in the store. His attitude towards books takes a sharp turn when he spots a new customer he has never seen before. He has a gray complexion and bristly eyebrows and looks as if he is floating!
This is Draculink (Dracul-ink, or the much better sounding Draculivre as he is called in the French edition, "livre" being the French word for book.) Odilon watches from his hiding place as Draculink takes a straw from his pocket, inserts it in a closed book and begins drinking! When Draculink is finished he puts the book back on the shelf and where Odilon finds it, the pages completely blank. Intrigued, Odilon follows him to through the city to his mausoleum, a round room encircled by shelves packed with books, Draculink's pantry. He is discovered and confronts Draculink, asking him why he drinks ink and not blood. Draculink tells him that he has had a liver condition for over seventy-two years and ink is the only food he can digest without difficulty. And, it must be ink from the printed page, not bottled ink, which he says is as "l bland as salt-free food."
Draculink bites Odilon, writing his name on his arm with his teeth. The last chapter of the book sees Odilon joyously returning to his father's bookstore and drinking ink, reveling in the stories that he absorbs as he slurps, for, when you drink ink you simultaneously live the story. The second book, A Straw For Two, finds a lonely Odilon wanting someone to share his ink with. He even invents a Y shaped straw that allows two people to drink from the same book. Happily, he finds Carmilla, niece of Draculink. In the third book, The City of Ink Drinkers, the trio is looking for a new home that is safe and full of books and find the Library of the World. In the fourth and final book, my favorite, Little Red Ink Drinker, Odilon and Carmilla find themselves sucked into the story of Little Red Ridinghood.
I wish that all these books were still in print and, even better, in one volume. The idea of an ink-drinking vampire is brilliant, especially since it makes books and the joy of reading an integral part of the story. As I re-read the series, I was reminded of Michael Buckley's equally genius series for older readers, Sister's Grimm. The playfulness of the stories, the interweaving of fairy tales and the great characters are definitely worth checking out if your reader likes The Ink Drinker.