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Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky is the first book in the Tristan Strong series by Kwame Mbaliia under the Rick Riordan Presents imprint, it focuses on West African and African American mythology and folklore.

Synopsis

Pitched as an MG American Gods, the book stars a seventh-grade boy who accidentally creates a hole into the Midpass, a world where ancient African gods clash with gods of African-American legend. He must race to find Anansi, the Weaver, and repair the rip before the iron monsters wreaking havoc in the Midpass consume their world and ours.[1]

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?[2]

Development

According to Kwame Mbaliia, Tristan Strong deals with grief and loss in this book, both personal and cultural.[3] On April 15th, Mbaliia revealed three items relevant to Tristan, a journal, a boxing glove, and sweet peaches.[4]

Plot

Leaving Home and Heading South

Tristan Strong

Tristan Strong

Tristan Strong was punching a punching bag in his room in Chicago. Two weeks ago he lost his best friend, Eddie, in a bus accident and his mother gave him his journal. It was supposed to be for an oral presentation they were going to do but school ended early due to Eddie's death. The night before, he lost his first boxing match, his parents and paternal grandparents tried to cheer him up but were also disappointed, his father and grandfather were professional boxers. His mother came in and told him they're ready for him to go to their grandparents' farm in Alabama for a month. Tristan's grief counselor said it would good for him to get a change of scenery. He grabbed his duffel bag and Eddie's journal, it somehow glowed green but only he noticed it, and he never read it despite knowing that it contained fables he heard in his youth.

Tristan noticed some dark clouds in the distance of the summer sky, he did not like the car ride at all. Grandad was always thinking about work and getting his grandson to do it, he was constantly talking the whole ride while Nana was knitting. They were always arguing and laughing, Nana was singing when not talking. Tristan noticed a weird symbol on Eddie's journal after his death, Nana revealed that it is a web, an old African symbol for creativity and wisdom, after saying that Mr. Richardson, his counselor says he needs to find out what he'd going to do in life. Tristan finally decided to open the journal.

Visions and Trance

He saw a vision of two figures crouched near the base of a giant oak tree. They were John Henry and Brer Rabbit, and they were talking about doing something. Brer Rabbit said something to John Henry’s hammer, John pressed it against the roots of tree. A black hole appeared, John put a small unintelligible object into it after telling it to go and find something.

Tristan Strong woke up back in his grandparents' Cadillac, he wasn’t sure if that was if that was a dream. They were almost at the farm, Tristan spotted a stand of old and twisted trees. Nana explained they were bottle trees, slaves from Africa used them to capture and dispose evil spirits. When the reach the farm, Granddad had Tristan help him fix a fence while Nana made dinner. While running up the extra wire to the barn after Granddad left, Tristan arrived at the bottle tree. But upon hearing Nana's voice, he ran back to the farmhouse.[5]

Tristan Punches the Hole

GumBaby

Gum Baby

At bedtime, Tristan heard something falling by the window then looking for something. Upon turning on the flashlight, Tristan saw a doll baby made of molasses and wood, she was Gum Baby from the tales of Anansi! She got mad that Tristan won't talk back after getting offended by him, she made a obnoxious introduction and hated being shushed. Gum Baby tries to punch Tristan but it only tickled, yet she got stains on his bed. She explained she's here for a sign, she threw goop on Tristan, stole the backpack with Eddie’s journal, and left out the window! Tristan just sank to the floor, but he saw a trail that Gum Baby left and followed it, ignoring fictional warnings.[6] When he got to the Bottle Tree forest, Tristan found Gum Baby and the backpack near a tree. She got furious and attacked after he called her a doll, they fought until Tristan used the backpack to punch one of the bottles on the tree. A hole appeared at the bottle of the tree and created a column of fire, Tristan Strong and Gum Baby plummeted in to save Eddie's journal.

When Tristan came to, a shadow from the bottle tree lit a lantern, they saved him after he saved them. Unfortunately, they wanted the book that Tristan didn't have, he said his name was Uncle C and left. Tristan fell into some sea with fire, Gum Baby was attached to the journal but couldn't swim. Tristan grabbed both but she told him "they" might hear them. Suddenly, a ship made out of bones appeared forcing Tristan to quickly swim toward a cloud of steam. Soon two more bone ships appeared, but then a whistle blew and a flying raft lowered a rope to them.

The owner of a staff asked what Tristan Strong was doing in the Burning Sea, they were with a girl named Ayanna and several hooded figures. Ayanna claimed that Gum Baby was gone for a year instead of a few hours.


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Chapter list

  1. The Car Ride
  2. The Bottle Trees
  3. Gum Baby
  4. Fight in the Forest
  5. Haints and Bone Ships
  6. The Raft
  7. Iron Monsters 101
  8. Fetterlings
  9. The Paper Giant
  10. The Thicket
  11. The Gods of MidPass
  12. The Butterfly Whisperer
  13. Anansesem
  14. Growing Desperate
  15. Fuel for the Gods
  16. The Warren
  17. The Worst Plan Ever
  18. The Adinkra
  19. Attack!
  20. The Bossling
  21. Brand Flies
  22. Legend of the Bottle Rocket
  23. The Golden Crescent
  24. Nyame's Palace
  25. That Was No Statue
  26. Bronzey to the Rescue
  27. Nyame's Charm
  28. Anansi's Lair
  29. Rock Lasers
  30. Into Isihlangu
  31. The Elders
  32. Spirit of the Imbongi
  33. Abiyoyo
  34. High John
  35. A Different Perspective
  36. The Man of Fire and Smoke
  37. Missing Memories
  38. The Story Box
  39. Unwelcome Visitors
  40. Hullbeasts and Brand Files
  41. The Magic Ax
  42. Hoodoo and Confessions
  43. The Mmoatia Forest
  44. We're all Broke-Story Box, Too
  45. Flight of the Midfolk
  46. A Dangerous Bargain
  47. King Cotton
  48. Last Stop
  49. Tricking the Trickster
  50. Reveal
  51. Good-byes and New Lives

Characters

Gallery

References

Tristan Strong series
Books: Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky
Main Characters: Tristan Strong | John Henry | Brer Rabbit
Minor Characters: Alvin Strong | Mrs. Strong | Walter Strong | Nana Strong
Related Content: Kwame Mbaliia | Rick Riordan Presents
Rick Riordan Presents
Pandava Quartet: Aru Shah and the End of Time | Aru Shah and the Song of Death | Aru Shah and the Tree of Wishes
Storm Runner series: The Storm Runner | The Fire Keeper | The Shadow Crosser
Sal & Gabi series: Sal & Gabi Break the Universe | Sal & Gabi Fix the Universe
Tristan Strong series: Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky
Paola Santiago series: Paola Santiago and the River of Tears
Stand Alone Novels: Dragon Pearl | Race to the Sun | City of the Plague God | The Last Fallen Star
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