SWEET PEACHES, is this book good!
All Tristan has left of his best friend Eddie is a journal full of stories, mythology, and folk tales that his Nana used to tell them. When one of the characters from those tales breaks into Tristan’s room and tries to steal the journal, Tristan gives chase–and punches a hole in the sky of Alke, the world in which stories are true, magic is real, and trouble is stirring…and it might be a little bit Tristan’s fault. He joins forces with characters from West African and African American legend (including John Henry, Brer Rabbit, Nyame the Sky God, and High John the Conqueror) to find Anansi’s Story Box and just maybe save the world.
“Send a seventh grader to do a god’s job, why don’t you.”
Witty and full of heart, Tristan is the hero we need and deserve, and I love him with my entire heart. He’s as strong as his last name claims he is, but has moments of real weakness; he’s brave, but has moments of fear; he’s so, so smart, but has moments where he makes the worst decisions possible. He’s so real, and I am so proud of him for stepping up even when he’s scared–especially when he’s scared–and being the hero. Protecting his friends. Telling stories. Because that’s the backbone of this book, and it is so important: stories are what bring us together, are what save us, are what make us strong. Stories are power.
And it pours out of this story in spades.
I can’t imagine how powerful and important this story is for Black kids. The power of stories, yes, but specifically of their stories, the stories meant for them… It’s so important to have that represented, to have that retold in a way that relates it all to the present, brings it into context, gives it new life. Heritage and legacy and looking to the past play a huge part in this book, but so does looking forward, growing, taking up the torch. And I’m so happy that these stories get to be told, get to be represented–god, representation is so important, and I’m so glad it’s actually happening for once.
This book digs into deep, important topics with gentle care and humor, but it doesn’t shy away from the seriousness or gravity of it either. There is a real exploration of grief and guilt and the paralyzing fear of letting down the people you love, but it’s handled beautifully, with Tristan’s wit and his tears and with the heroes and gods reminding him that both reactions are okay. This book is unflinching and it presents slavery, division, diaspora, the kidnapping of culture with all the gravity those topics deserve–without alienating kids. I can’t imagine how important this book is for Black kids, yes, but I hope, I hope that parents know how important it is for white kids, too–to learn from, to try to understand. To bring together instead of divide.
I can’t say enough good things about this book. It is beautiful and funny and also I cried, and Tristan fills me with such emotion–pride is not the word I’m looking for. There is so much more inside me now.
You can purchase Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky online or call the store to reserve a copy.