|Tristan Strong punches a hole in the sky (Tristan Strong)|
Author: Mbalia, Kwame
Seventh-grader Tristan Strong tumbles into the MidPass and, with allies John Henry and Brer Rabbit, must entice the god Anansi to come out of hiding and seal the hole Tristan accidentally ripped in the sky.
|Accelerated Reader Information:|
Interest Level: MG
Reading Level: 4.80
Points: 15.0 Quiz: 505341
|Reading Counts Information:|
Interest Level: 6-8
Reading Level: 5.20
Points: 23.0 Quiz: 77794
Coretta Scott King Author Honor, 2020
Kirkus Reviews (+) (08/01/19)
School Library Journal (+) (11/01/19)
Booklist (+) (08/01/19)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (+) (00/10/19)
Full Text Reviews:
Booklist - 08/01/2019 *Starred Review* After losing his debut boxing match, two weeks following his best friend Eddie’s death, Tristan Strong is sent to his grandparents’ Alabama farm. He grew up on his nana’s stories—Black American folklore and African myths—which Eddie had been collecting in writing. This journal is all Tristan has left of his friend, so when one of those myths, the hilariously volatile Gum Baby, shows up to steal it, Tristan gives chase. In the struggle, he punches a Bottle Tree, inadvertently unleashing an evil spirit and tearing a hole into a parallel universe. The world he falls into is an amalgam of Nana’s stories, and as Tristan lands in the middle of a conflict between gods, heroes, and ruthless iron monsters—snapping, serpentine manacles—he must reclaim Eddie’s journal and return home, but not before discovering his own power and fixing the damage he caused. Mbalia’s epic debut centers African American characters and tradition, featuring a pantheon of legends and a plot worthy of such tricksters as Brer Rabbit and Anansi the Weaver. Perfectly paced, this cinematic adventure never drags, anchored by Tristan’s conversational narration and balanced by his struggle to cope with a friend’s passing. It brims with heart, humor, and action, successfully crafting a beautifully unified secondary world that brings the power of stories to glorious life. - Copyright 2019 Booklist.
School Library Journal - 11/01/2019 Gr 5–8—Tristan is reluctantly on his way to spend the summer with his grandparents on the family farm. In his pocket he carries the journal of his best friend Eddie, killed in a bus accident. Tristan's survivor guilt means he hasn't read the journal, and he is trying very hard to ignore the strange green glow coming from its cover. When Gum Baby, a figure from West African legend, tries to steal the journal, Tristan races to retrieve it, breaking a bottle on his grandmother's bottle tree and falling through a flaming hole into a parallel world. Here, the stories Tristan's grandmother tells are solidly real: in the course of breathless chases, close escapes, and mounting stakes, he meets John Henry, Brer Fox, High John the Conqueror, and other figures from African and African American folklore. A race to retrieve Anansi's story box reveals Tristan's destiny as an Anansesem, a storyteller of power, and makes him a pivotal figure in the saving of this strange new world. While the novel is lengthy, the pace is quick, secondary characterizations are nicely delineated, and the folkloric figures are heroic and true to their legends. The world-building includes evocative descriptions of skeleton ships, manacled monsters, and deadly villains. In addition to being rife with action, the story is rooted in the emotional journey of the protagonist; between making friends and losing them, Tristan finally makes peace with Eddie's death. VERDICT Part of the "Rick Riordan Presents" series, this debut novel offers a richly realized world, a conversational, breezy style, and a satisfying conclusion that leaves room for sequels.—Janice M. Del Negro, GSLIS Dominican University, River Forest, IL - Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.