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Tristan Strong is mourning the death of his best friend Eddie so his parents are sending him to visit his grandparents in Alabama for a few weeks. He wakes on his first night there to find that a sticky living doll, who calls herself Gum Baby, is stealing Eddie’s writing journal. Tristan tries to catch her and retrieve the stories but instead he accidentally punches a hole in the sky of a mythical land peopled by figures from African-American folktales and mythology.
If you look closely at the cover, you’ll notice that it says “Rick Riordan Presents.” Riordan has a small imprint at Disney that he’s using to publish stories similar to his own works but about mythologies that he’s less familiar with. I understand this to mean that he’s promoting more of an #ownvoices version of modern mythology. I applaud him for using his success to promote others!
That said, the humor and adventure in Tristan Strong are sure to appeal to readers who enjoy Percy Jackson and all of Riordan’s other books. My inner 12-year-old giggled a lot.
I was surprised by the traces of darkness in these pages though. The first thing I noticed was Eddie’s death. So many kids do struggle with losing friends their age, it has to be good for them to read about characters who are also dealing with grief. This world’s monsters broke my heart but they might not be as noticeable to younger readers. Viewed through the lens of slavery, brand flies that rob you of your will, fetterlings (and the bigger bosslings) that chain you, and hullbeasts that trap branded and bound people and spread death and disease are terrifying and so much more than they appear to be on the surface. Well done, Mr. Mbalia.
I will never claim to know much about African mythology or African-American legends, but even I recognized a lot of these characters. Anansi, Brer Rabbit, John Henry, and more make larger-than-life appearances here.
Amir Abdullah’s narration was fabulous.
For humor, adventure, and an introduction to mythologies that are under-represented, I highly recommend this. It’s a fun story with a lot of heart.
Nicole at BookWyrm Knits
If you liked Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, you might also like my reviews of
- The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson & the Olympians #1)
- Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer (Artemis Fowl #1)
- Magyk by Angie Sage (Septimus Heap #)
Buy Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky from Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville, NC.
I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe in beautiful Asheville, NC. I will earn a small commission at no additional cost to you if you purchase merchandise through links on my site.