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Review: Tristan Strong Punches A Hole In The Sky

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky

Title: Tristan Strong Punches A Hole In The Sky
Author: Kwame Mbalia
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy, Mythology
Page Count: 482
Published by: Rick Riordan Presents
Date Published: October 15, 2019
You can find a copy here: Bookshop.org


Talented boxer Tristan Strong feels like his name is a cruel misnomer. After tragically losing his best friend Eddie in a bus accident he blames himself for not helping sooner. Now, under the advice of a therapist, Tristan travels with his grandparents to their Alabama farm for a month of healing.

Armed with his most cherished possession, Eddie’s journal of stories, Tristan leaves on the trip he has been dreading. But things take an unexpected turn when on his first night there a tiny, sap-shooting doll known as Gum Baby breaks into his room to steal the journal.

What follows is a mad chase through an Alabama field and Bottle Tree forest. When Tristan accidentally punches the Bottle Tree he rips open a portal to another world, MidPass, and releases a powerful Haint at the same time. It is now his responsibility to set things right and close the hole before it completely destroys everything, but first he must survive oceans made of flame, ships made of bones, talking forest creatures, and evil iron monsters hunting the inhabitants of MidPass.

Tristan must ally with the residents of MidPass and various Black American Gods, like John Henry, Brer Rabbit, and Anansi – the tricky weaver – before their world is destroyed forever.


What an explosive adventure of mythological proportions! If you’ve read a review of mine, you know I am all for any story that brings in elements of mythology and folklore. So I was super intrigued and fascinated by the chance to learn more about iconic Black Gods. Tristan Strong definitely delivered!

With each story I read in the Rick Riordan Presents series, I become more and more convinced he can do no wrong. Each story is so exciting, so rich with cultural detail, and, most importantly, strong own voices that lends such an authentic narrative expanding my learning and understanding … which is really what reading is supposed to be all about! Especially important for us to raise well rounded children who are accepting and understanding of those who are different. My long way of saying, keep up the good work Riordan!

But back to Tristan Strong.

Overall this is a powerfully dynamic story with incredibly strong character voices – Gum Baby will definitely become a favourite – and a completely, wholly unique new world. Action, adventure, imagination – it is all here in a very comic-book style script and fast paced plot. While it might at first glance appear more “boy leaning” in true middle grade fashion there are numerous strong female characters to balance it – from Gum Baby to his Grandmother to Ayanna to Thandiwe. It is a superbly crafted middle grade adventure story but I did find myself somewhat lost numerous times, having to go back to reread certain sections, however this was never enough to take away from the whole. An ambitious read full of might, power, and voice – a heartfelt story of finding strength through adversity, hope through grief, and power through healing. An excellent choice for any comic-lover or reluctant reader with action aplenty, Tristan Strong is a seriously impressive debut.

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