Best-selling author Rick Riordan presents Kwame Mbalia's epic fantasy, a middle grade American Gods set in a richly-imagined world populated with African American folk heroes and West African gods.
Seventh grader Tristan Strong feels anything but strong ever since he failed to save his best friend when they were in a bus accident together. All he has left of Eddie is the journal his friend wrote stories in. Tristan is dreading the month he's going to spend on his grandparents' farm in Alabama, where he's being sent to heal from the tragedy. But on his first night there, a sticky creature shows up in his bedroom and steals Eddie's notebook. Tristan chases after it--is that a doll?--and a tug-of-war ensues between them underneath a Bottle Tree. In a last attempt to wrestle the journal out of the creature's hands, Tristan punches the tree, accidentally ripping open a chasm into the MidPass, a volatile place with a burning sea, haunted bone ships, and iron monsters that are hunting the inhabitants of this world. Tristan finds himself in the middle of a battle that has left black American folk heroes John Henry and Brer Rabbit exhausted. In order to get back home, Tristan and these new allies will need to entice the god Anansi, the Weaver, to come out of hiding and seal the hole in the sky. But bartering with the trickster Anansi always comes at a price. Can Tristan save this world before he loses more of the things he loves?
"After losing his debut boxing match, two weeks following his best friend Eddie's death, Tristan Strong is sent to his grandparents' Alabama farm. He grew up on his nana's stories Black American folklore and African myths which Eddie had been collecting in writing. This journal is all Tristan has left of his friend, so when one of those myths, the hilariously volatile Gum Baby, shows up to steal it, Tristan gives chase. In the struggle, he punches a Bottle Tree, inadvertently unleashing an evil spirit and tearing a hole into a parallel universe. The world he falls into is an amalgam of Nana's stories, and as Tristan lands in the middle of a conflict between gods, heroes, and ruthless iron monsters snapping, serpentine manacles he must reclaim Eddie's journal and return home, but not before discovering his own power and fixing the damage he caused. Mbalia's epic debut centers African American characters and tradition, featuring a pantheon of legends and a plot worthy of such tricksters as Brer Rabbit and Anansi the Weaver. Perfectly paced, this cinematic adventure never drags, anchored by Tristan's conversational narration and balanced by his struggle to cope with a friend's passing. It brims with heart, humor, and action, successfully crafting a beautifully unified secondary world that brings the power of stories to glorious life.--Ronny Khuri Copyright 2010 Booklist"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review:
"In this triumphant middle grade debut inspired by West African mythology and African-American folk tales, black seventh grader Tristan Strong is sent from Chicago to spend the summer on his grandparents' Alabama farm. His best friend has just died, and he's lost a boxing match (much to his boxing family's disappointment). When a talking doll named Gum Baby steals his prized book of stories-- which has mysteriously begun to glow--Tristan pursues, accidentally tearing a hole between the farm and the myriad lands of Alke. There, he encounters legendary folk heroes such as hammer-swinging John Henry and wily Brer Fox, whose people are being captured and enslaved by terrifying monsters. To mend the rift, save the day, and return home, Tristan and his allies must seek out the missing trickster god Anansi, a journey that takes them to regions inhabited by ancient gods. As a reluctant hero--afraid of heights, grieving, and burdened by past failures--Tristan's voice rings true and sympathetic, while the irrepressible Gum Baby steals every scene. Mbalia expertly weaves a meaningful portrayal of family and community with folklore, myth, and history--including the legacy of the slave trade--creating a fast-paced, heroic series starter. Ages 8--12. Agent: Victoria Marini, Cake Literary. (Oct.)"
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