Bandapats need lots of Vitamin A, and, as the supply of squash in his native land, whatever it really is, is diminishing, Inkling ventures into Brooklyn and hits the jackpot at the Big Round Pumpkin. In book two, Dangerous Pumpkins, he also scores big as Halloween approaches and people start putting out their decorations. It takes everything Hank has to convince Inkling that he CANNOT eat the jack-o-lanterns, but it is hard work. Hank's social life has not improved much since the first book. He has no one to go trick-or-treating with and does not look forward to another year of being "looked after" by Nadia and her teenage friends who like to scare little kids while their folks keep the shop open. Add to that the fact that, once again, Hank's dad has chosen Nadia's special Halloween flavor (Candy Crunch) over all of Hank's ideas (Mummy Toenail, Black Spiderweb, Dead Scarecrow and Loose Tooth - there is a great illustration along with flavor details that actually sound yummy in the book) and the fact that Inkling devours Nadia's contest entries (four "dangerous pumpkins," pumpkins with extreme carvings) leaving Hank to take the blame, and things seem pretty bleak.
Jenkins balances this nicely with bright (but not always easy) spots like (Sasha, last names only for Hank) Chin, Hank's downstairs neighbor who, while she is in his grade and is "a really good drummer and excellent at playing alien school children" while also helping to build a matchstick replica of the Taj Mahal after school, also has a "whole ballerina side" to her that Hank just doesn't get. Also, all her other friends are girls and Hank does not want to go trick-or-treating with a bunch of tutus. But, Chin is not all she seems (two words: zombie ballerinas) and, in the end, Nadia isn't as mean as she seems either. While Hank still has to deal with embarrassment and disaster at the hands of the bandapat, Inkling is there for him at his loneliest moments and the two friends need each other more than they realize.
Harry Bliss's illustrations have the perfect balance of humor and reality, making Hank's story all the more believable and Inkling irresistible, even if the reader is the only one who can see this pumpkin-loving-troublemaker. A third Invisible Inkling book is due out next year! Don't miss this very funny interview with Emily and Inkling...
As I mentioned above, Emily Jenkins is also a wonderful picture book author and, as with her chapter books, she is always paired with brilliant illustrators from Sergio Ruzzier to Alexandra Boiger to Lauren Castillo. I am especially excited to see Jenkins' new book, Water in the Park, illustrated by a new favorite of mine, Stephanie Graegin. Emily's book excellent book, A Little Bit Scary People, made my Best Picture Books of 2008 list.