by Kwame Mbalia
If you're seeking a page-turning adventure perfect for summer reading, look no further than Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia. From the eye-catching cover to the final page, the story of relatable protagonist Tristan Strong will draw readers into a magical world populated by heroes of African-American and West African mythology.
Tristan Strong is not having a fun summer. Grieving for his best friend and "exiled" to his grandparent's farm in Alabama after losing his first boxing match, Tristan is finding it difficult to live up to the family motto "Strongs keep punching." When a doll-like creature named Gum Baby steals the journal that once belonged to Tristan's best friend, Tristan accidentally punches a portal into the magical realm of Alke. In Alke, Tristan finds himself fighting alongside legends like John Henry and escaping from bone ships, fetterlings, and villains that represent the true history of West Africans captured into the trans-Atlantic slave trade. As the New York Times review noted "...this novel reminds us why myths exist. They’re not simply stories to entertain. They tell us who we are. Where we came from. What’s worth fighting for. They remind us to keep telling the stories." The strength and originality of Mbalia's storytelling earned this book a 2020 Coretta Scott King Honor Award.
For those eager to continue Tristan's journey, check out the sequel Tristan Strong Destroys the World.
See the Jones Library Antiracism Book List for recommended titles for all ages.