Book Review: Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia

Book #216 of 2019:

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

Middle-grade fiction is very hit-or-miss for me, but I loved this series debut right from the start. #OwnVoices stories rooted in the perspective of their authors’ cultural heritage have become increasingly popular, and this latest novel from the Rick Riordan Presents publishing line is one of the best. Not only does it deliver rare representation in the form of its black seventh-grade protagonist and its inclusion of traditional African-American folk heroes like John Henry and African gods like Anansi; it also just spins a clever and entertaining narrative that’s full of heart and wonder.

It’s easy for books like this to coast by on old tropes retold in diverse settings, but writer Kwame Mbalia brings a refreshing originality to Tristan’s challenges throughout. I would have liked a little more plot resolution at the end, but I’m glad to see that a sequel has already been announced to continue the tale. And I’m really happy that I read this title in time for it to get my vote in the 2019 Goodreads Choice Awards!


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Published by Joe Kessler

Book reviewer in Northern Virginia. If I'm not writing, I'm hopefully off getting lost in a good story.

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