Name of Book: Inkheart
Author: Cornelia Funke
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Audience: Ages 9 and up
Summary: Twelve-year-old Meggie and her father Mo, a bookbinder, live a quiet life together until a stranger appears one rainy night, and Meggie learns of a complicated past which quickly envelops her family again. Nine years before, Mo had been reading aloud to his family when several characters from the story of Inkheart leapt out of the fictional adventure and into the real world, while Meggie’s mother and a couple of cats disappeared into the pages of the book. In the intervening years these evil characters – Capricorn and his band of followers – have continued wreaking the same sort of havoc which marked their fictional lives. They have taken over a small Italian village, blackmailing or killing any who dared get in their way. Now they want Mo to read aloud from Inkheart again, this time to draw the truly malevolent Shadow into the world. They will stop at nothing to get what they want.
Literary elements at work in the story: Like all fantasy, Inkheart requires the reader’s complete acceptance of unrealistic elements in the story. In this case, the reader must consent to the notion that a particularly gifted storyteller can read book characters out of a book and into real life. Most of Funke’s characters are so well developed that believing in them takes no great stretch of the imagination. The only exception is Capricorn, whose maliciousness seems to come from the core of his being. Narration is always in the third person, but the point of view skips around among several main characters, allowing the reader broad and deep insight into the action.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? Although the main character of Inkheart is a pre-teen girl, the real power in this novel is held by males. Mo and Capricorn stand at opposite ends of the spectrum of good and evil. Meggie certainly grows into a power that she didn’t know she had, but at the end of the story, after she has saved the day with extraordinary courage, Mo steps back into his paternal role of authority and begins to make plans again. Further, the fact that Meggie’s mother has lost her voice in her transition from the storybook world of Inkheart back to the real world is a metaphor that may not serve young female readers well.
Theological conversation partners: Inkheart is a post-Paradise story, in which evil has entered the world in the guise of Capricorn and his men. As with all of Judeo/Christian history, the characters in Funke’s novel look toward a specific narrative as the entry point for returning to the world in which they want to live, a world without evil. At the climax of the novel, Meggie vanquishes evil (at least until the next installment of the series) by being brave enough to tell a different story, one in which good triumphs. It is not the story that Capricorn has commanded, but it is one that must be told. This brave storytelling will resonate with those who tell Jesus’ alternative narrative as well.
Faith Talk Questions:
- Writers like Fenoglio (the fictional author of Inkheart in the novel by the same name) are creators of whole imaginary worlds. How are they like God, the creator of the universe? How are they different?
- Are there people as evil as Capricorn in our world?
- Meggie got rid of Capricorn by reading a different story when she was forced to read aloud. What small irritations would you like to get rid of if you could rewrite your story? What large evils would you like to rewrite?
- Jesus often hung out with people whom the rest of the world avoided. How is Jesus’ lifestyle like rewriting a story?
This review was written by Union Presbyterian Seminary student Beth Lyon-Suhring.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Books written for Grades 5-8 (Ages 10 -13), Books written for Grades 9 - 12 (Ages 14-17), Faith Questions For...., Fantasy/Science Fiction, High School Students, Middle Schoolers, Older Elementary Tagged: | courage, evil, fantasy, storytelling