Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, by Kwame Mbalia

I just read, and wrote about, Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, by Kwame Mbalia, for a Barnes and Noble Kids Blog post, so I'm not going to do a full review here.  But I want to talk about it here a bit too, since this is my more personal record of book reading.

Wow!  This is so powerful, and sad, and important, and funny (in places), and the sort of book one wants to give to kids Right Now.

Tristan's grief over his best friend's death, and the way he blames himself for it, and his sense of failure for loosing his first boxing match (I was cross at his dad and grandfather for being so clearly disappointed in him) set the stage for his journey into a world of magic and mayhem.  He's carrying a lot of emotional weight with him when he punches the titular hole in the sky, and once he goes through, a whole heap more is piled on him.

And it's not just personal weight, but the weight of sad and terrible history. There's the fact that the primary attacking monsters are iron fetterlings, and the land is called Midpass, evoking the Middle Passage, and more along the same lines as the story continues.

But also there are African American god heroes, West African gods, and lots and lots of story holding everything together.  And it's Tristan's affinity for stories and storytelling, learned from his grandmother, that is his own greatest power (although the magical boxing gloves he gets are pretty darn cool too!).

Looked at more dispassionately, it's a very solid story, with a familiar sort of Riorden-esque feel to it--the hero struggling to figure out just what he's supposed to do, with help, and hindrance, from lots of new characters met along the way.  It moves along at a good pace, and the writing makes everything come vividly to life.

So basically, it lives up to its gorgeous cover!

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