I love reading stories about folklore and characters who have existed for generations. It is especially refreshing to encounter these age-old personas in a modern setting through a contemporary lens.
Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky is just such a book, focusing on West African stories and mythology and blending many together into one complex narrative. Though there are many elements and interactions that exist in this story, Kwame Mbalia has done a fabulous job introducing each one in such a way that the reader does not realize the depth of their understanding until far into the plot. After reading this book, many of the stories I read as a child have gained new life and I feel more connected to characters like Gum Baby and Anansi than I ever did before. Please see my full review here.
There are two things in particular that I love about the presentation of this story. The first is Tristan’s realization that adults are not perfect and they do not know all the answers. Though this is infuriating for Tristan at times, he becomes inspired to step into a leadership role to guide adults and children alike through the challenging situations they face in this story.
The second is the oft-referenced connection to stories. Beginning with the journal left behind by Tristan’s best friend Eddie, stories are integral to this reimagining of traditional West African folklore. As Tristan becomes a stronger storyteller himself, the link that stories create among people of all kinds around the world is reinforced. This bond is a powerful reminder of the humanity found within us all and the stories that built the world long before the advent of television or the Internet.
I’m excited to dive into book two, to learn what happens next in Tristan’s life and how his grandparents react to his adventures in Alke...or if he even tells them.
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