Friday, September 27, 2019

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky

Have you ever heard the Irish saying "Dance as if no one were watching, sing as if no one were listening, and live every day as if it were your last?"

It's my only good explanation for my rendition of Queen's Another One Bites the Dust, entitled "Another Book Overdue".

That, I have my own SnoBall microphone, and the 6th graders were WAY too impressed with my rendition of the THE Ohio State fight song that started "Read, read, oh read a book/ read a new book every day".

Also, while students can't check out a book if they have something overdue, no student EVER leaves my library without a book of some kind!

Mbalia, Kwame. Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky
October 15th 2019 by Rick Riordan Presents
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Tristan's parents send him from his home in Chicago to stay with his grandparents in Alabama for the summer so that he can try to find a new way forward after the death of his best friend Eddie in a bus accident. He feels inadequate for several reasons; he failed to save his friend, he doesn't box as well as his father, and his Granddad thinks he is soft and doesn't work hard enough. His Nana, who tells him lots of stories, is the only one who seems to understand. He has his best friend's journal, and only he can see it glowing green, with an unusual symbol on the front. One night, Tristan hears odd sounds in his room, and the Gum Baby appears to him. Talking continuously in the third person, Gum Baby demands the journal, which of course Tristan does not to part with. The resultant fighting causes Tristan to get sucked into another world, ripping the titular "hole in the sky" in the process. Once in this other world, he meets a host of characters who are from traditional African-American stories: Brer Fox and Rabbit, John Henry, Nyame, two flying women named Rose and Sarah, Thandiwe, High John,  and a girl his age named Ayanna and a man named Uncle C. The journal keeps getting misplaced, so finding it is an important quest, but Tristan also finds himself fending off the fetterlings and traveling into the Golden Crescent on a mission to find a Story Box. He has found that he is an Anansesem and has a keen ability to tell stories in a riveting fashion, which he does frequently. The force that the group is fighting is called Maafa, and he wants to power of the stories within the journal and Story Box. Tristan is able to gain insights into his own grief by understanding Maafa's motivation, and finds a way to silence his threat. Unfortunately, there are other adversaries who are not so easily subdued. Will Tristan be able to retrieve Eddie's journals and return to his own world?
Strengths: I really enjoyed the parts set in the real world, and I loved Granddad's philosophy that more work solves everything! This very cleverly uses a lot of African and African American folk tales to good effect. The characters work well together, and there is LOTS of action and adventure. It is great to see speculative fiction by #ownvoices writers that represent cultures that are NOT Anglo-Saxon-Celtic.
Weaknesses: There were a lot of characters and places, as well as some allegory, and I spent most of my time trying to figure out one thing, thereby missing something else. It is telling that when I looked up other reviews, most did not include a plot synopsis that would have clarified some of these points for me. I think I am not the only who was confused. It might have helped to have an index with some of the references.
What I really think: I will purchase, but I wish it were a bit shorter (the E ARC was 498 pages!) and less confusing. I fear that only my most avid fantasy fans (i.e. the students who adore Eragon) will be able to get through this.

In 1950s teen literature, there were an inordinate number of great aunts and elderly neighbor women who lived in decrepit mansions and wore the styles of the 1910s- high necked dresses, usually black, with jet beading and long skirts.

I have become that person, but, man, the 1990s had some comfortable, professional dresses with long sleeves and fantastic shoulder pads!

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