cover image Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky (Tristan Strong #1)

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky (Tristan Strong #1)

Kwame Mbalia. Disney-Hyperion/Riordan, $17.99 (496p) ISBN 978-1-368-03993-2

In this triumphant middle grade debut inspired by West African mythology and African-American folk tales, black seventh grader Tristan Strong is sent from Chicago to spend the summer on his grandparents’ Alabama farm. His best friend has just died, and he’s lost a boxing match (much to his boxing family’s disappointment). When a talking doll named Gum Baby steals his prized book of stories— which has mysteriously begun to glow—Tristan pursues, accidentally tearing a hole between the farm and the myriad lands of Alke. There, he encounters legendary folk heroes such as hammer-swinging John Henry and wily Brer Fox, whose people are being captured and enslaved by terrifying monsters. To mend the rift, save the day, and return home, Tristan and his allies must seek out the missing trickster god Anansi, a journey that takes them to regions inhabited by ancient gods. As a reluctant hero—afraid of heights, grieving, and burdened by past failures—Tristan’s voice rings true and sympathetic, while the irrepressible Gum Baby steals every scene. Mbalia expertly weaves a meaningful portrayal of family and community with folklore, myth, and history—including the legacy of the slave trade—creating a fast-paced, heroic series starter. Ages 8–12. Agent: Victoria Marini, Cake Literary. [em](Oct.) [/em]