Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky
by Kwame Mbalia
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Genre: African Folk Tales, Fantasy
Length: 528 pages
First Published: 2020
Coretta Scott King Author Honor, Winner
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?
Think “Percy Jackson meets West-African and African-American Folktales” in this fantastic adventure story Kwame Mbalia. Tristan is spending a month with his grandparents to heal from the death of his best friend in a tragic accident. While there, a strange and tiny creature sneaks into his room to steal his best friend’s journal. Tristan chases the creature and during the fight for the journal, he tears open a hole into another world and begins his adventure to save the world.
In addition to the epic adventure that Tristan is forced to embark upon, this book has a genuinely human side as Tristan processes his grief. There are plenty of fantastic plot twists and unforgettable characters making this a late elementary/early middle school favorite. My sons (6th and 8th grade) and I absolutely loved it and all three of us give it 5 stars without hesitation.
NOTE: The audiobook has fantastic voices and is well worth the listen!
Book Club Ideas
Hang empty bottles from a tree in the yard to create a bottle tree as a decoration.
Play storytelling games. Rory’s Story Cubes are one fun way to create stories together.
Create story boxes! Purchase wooden boxes, crates, or chests from your local craft story and let the attendees paint them using acrylic paint.
Chew some gum, baby! 😉 And offer several types of assorted gummy candies.
Grab this set of questions that can be used to facilitate a fantastic discussion about any novel, including Tristan Strong:
About the Author: Kwame Mbalia
“Kwame is a husband, father, writer, a New York Times bestselling author, and a former pharmaceutical metrologist in that order.” You can find him on his website.
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