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Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky

By Kwame Mbalia
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion Copyright Year: 2019 ISBN/ISSN: 9781368039932

Review

This first book from Mbalia does not disappoint! Mbalia guides readers into the world of African American folk heroes and West African gods through Tristan, a seventh grader who is drowning in self-deprecation, having failed to save his best friend, Eddie, from a bus accident. Now all that is left of Eddie is his journal filled with stories, and all there is to look forward to for Tristan is the month he is going to spend on his grandparents' farm in Alabama to heal from the tragedy. However, on the first night there, a sticky creature (or doll?) shows up in his bedroom and steals Eddie's journal. Tristan is drawn to the restricted Bottle Tree to try to retrieve the journal. After many failed attempts to retrieve the journal from the doll, he finally punches the tree. Unbeknownst to Tristan, the tree is actually a passage point into the MidPass, a volatile realm with a burning sea, haunted bone ships, and iron monsters. Tristan is now in the middle of a battle that leaves African American gods John Henry and Brer Rabbit exhausted—all to retrieve the journal, which he must do by enticing Anansi, the Weaver, to come out of hiding and seal the hole in the sky. Will Tristan be able to save the world before he loses everything he holds dear? This epic tale is worthy of the endorsement of Rick Riordan, who wrote the preface in this novel. A guaranteed edge-of-your-seat read aloud for upper elementary and middle school fans of tall tales, mythology, and folkloric literary adventures. Classroom studies of folk and tall tales will find this book an excellent example of how to adapt classics into epic tales with a modern twist. Many great writing prompts can be drawn from this unit of study; for example: "MidPass is a volatile place of burning seas, haunted bone ships, and iron monsters. Examine and explain an alternative escape from this passage point."

Reviewer: Peg Billing
Rating: Highly Recommended
Grade (as stated by Reviewer/SLC): 3-8
Review Date: September 1, 2019

Product Description

Best-selling author Rick Riordan presents Kwame Mbalia's epic fantasy, a middle grade American Gods set in a richly-imagined world populated with African American folk heroes and West African gods.

Seventh grader Tristan Strong feels anything but strong ever since he failed to save his best friend when they were in a bus accident together. All he has left of Eddie is the journal his friend wrote stories in. Tristan is dreading the month he's going to spend on his grandparents' farm in Alabama, where he's being sent to heal from the tragedy. But on his first night there, a sticky creature shows up in his bedroom and steals Eddie's notebook. Tristan chases after it--is that a doll?--and a tug-of-war ensues between them underneath a Bottle Tree. In a last attempt to wrestle the journal out of the creature's hands, Tristan punches the tree, accidentally ripping open a chasm into the MidPass, a volatile place with a burning sea, haunted bone ships, and iron monsters that are hunting the inhabitants of this world. Tristan finds himself in the middle of a battle that has left black American folk heroes John Henry and Brer Rabbit exhausted. In order to get back home, Tristan and these new allies will need to entice the god Anansi, the Weaver, to come out of hiding and seal the hole in the sky. But bartering with the trickster Anansi always comes at a price. Can Tristan save this world before he loses more of the things he loves?

Media Type Book, eBook
Binding HC
Price 16.99
Grade (as stated by Reviewer/SLC) 3-8
Genre Fiction
Sub-Genre Action & Adventure
Content Subject 1 Fables, Folktales, Myths & Legends
Content Subject 2 Conflict & Courage
Time Period NA
Region North America
Story: Action Packed
Characters/Characterization: Unusual/Quirky/Eccentric
Language: Compelling
Tone/Mood Suspenseful
Pace: Lively/Fast
Setting: Immersive
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Entry ID: 2216255