Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Triston Strong Punches A Hole In The Sky by Kwame Mbalia. This tour is being hosted by Rock Star Book Tours. I’ll be sharing my review and there will be a giveaway.
Title: TRISTAN STRONG PUNCHES A HOLE IN THE SKY
Author: Kwame Mbalia
Pub. Date: October 1, 2019
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion, Rick Riordan Presents
Formats: Hardcover, eBook, audiobook
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 journal. 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 gods 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?
I think this is a book that children and adults will love.
Because I feel like you need to read the book to appreciate all the stories in it, I’m going to just talk about a handful of things without going too far into the plot.
We meet Triston Strong right away. He just lost his first boxing match and his father and grandfather are both disappointed in him. Strongs are fighters, but Tristan didn’t do anything he trained for. Triston’s best friend, Eddie, died in an accident and Triston blames himself. It’s very clear that he’s depressed and angry. His parents decide to send him with his grandparents to their farm for a month. Triston has to leave Chicago and go to Alabama where he will be mostly disconnected from the world. After Eddie died, his mom gave Triston Eddie’s journal. They were working on a project together for school, but then Eddie died. The teacher wants Triston to continue it. The weird thing is that Eddie’s journal now has a strange symbol and it glows. Only Triston seems to see it.
Triston’s grandpa is strict and old school. He believes in hard work from morning until night. His grandma is a storyteller and mostly knits during the car ride. Triston knows that Eddie wrote down a lot of Triston’s grandma’s stories in his journal. He loved hearing the tales that aren’t always talked about anymore. When they arrive at the farm, Triston points out some odd trees that have flashes of light. His grandma explains that it’s the Bottle Tree forest. The bottles were thought to keep away the haints, evil spirits. She warns Triston away from there. When Triston goes to sleep, he’s creeped out by a lot of things in the dark. He uses and light and things come into focus and nothing seems weird. That is until a doll in the middle of the floor turns its head and looks at him. Then she starts talking.
Gum Baby, the doll, is there to take the journal. Triston runs after her all the way to the Bottle Tree forest. Gum Baby is one of the stories Triston had heard growing up. Triston ends up punching a Bottle Tree and a bottle breaks. A shadowy figure came out of the glass. After that, Triston somehow ends up falling all the way down into water that looks like an ocean of fire. The ships start to surface and they’re made of bones. Triston and Gum Baby try to avoid the ships and a flying raft with a girl, Ayanna, saves them. Ayanna tells Gum Baby that she had been gone for a year even though Gum Baby was only gone for one night in Alabama. When Triston broke the Bottle Tree, he ripped a hole in the sky and brought a haint down with him. Now Alke, this other world, is in chaos. The hole made things worse and they are being attacked.
Along the way, Triston meets other people, animals, and Gods from the stories he heard growing up. They talk about how stories are powerful magic and that Triston is a storyteller. It’s up to him to help everyone survive, seal the hole, and get back home. During this time, Triston also deals with Eddie’s death, his feelings of helplessness, and how to move on. Triston is a strong boy, but he also shows that depression and feelings of loss and anger are real, and ok. It’s ok to be sad. It’s ok to feel like a failure or feel blame. And it’s ok to get help.
I hope this reaches a lot of middle school aged children that can read and appreciate the beautiful writing and stories throughout the book.
I gave this book 4 stars. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my review copy.
Kwame is a husband, father, writer, and pharmaceutical metrologist in that order. His debut middle-grade novel, TRISTAN STRONG PUNCHES A HOLE IN THE SKY (October 15, 2019) is published by Rick Riordan Presents/Disney-Hyperion. A Howard University graduate and a Midwesterner now in North Carolina, he enjoys impromptu dance sessions and Cheezits.
3 winners will receive a finished copy of TRISTAN STRONG PUNCHES A HOLE IN THE SKY, US Only.
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