Seventh grader Tristan Strong feels anything but what his last name suggests. After losing his best friend in a tragic bus accident and feeling like he’s a failure at boxing, a sport that has been in his family for generations, Tristan is completely down in the dumps. Just when he thinks things couldn’t possibly get any worse, he is sent away from Chicago to live with his grandparents for a month on their farm in Alabama. On his first night there, Tristan wakes up to a strange talking doll named Gum Baby stealing Eddie’s journal. Knowing that this is all he has left of Eddie, Tristan follows the mysterious doll into the night to get it back.
When they reach the Bottle Tree, Tristan grabs the backpack with the journal inside of it, and punches the tree in anger. It causes a bottle to break, and the tree swallows him and Gum Baby up, sending them into a whole new world. Tristan and Gum Baby are brought to another world called MidPass, which is filled with all kinds of creatures and humans. Tristan learns that when he punched a hole in the tree, he created a huge problem: the hole unleashed an evil group called the Maafa, which consists of metallic monsters called Fetterlings, and they are capturing everyone that they can. When Tristan meets the others that live in Midpass, such as Ayanna, Chestnutt, and Thandiwe, he realizes that he is to blame for the chaos, and teams up with the others to fix the problem he created.
Teaming up with incredible African-American legends such as John Henry, Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox, and High John, Tristan realizes that he holds the power of storytelling, and that he must be the brave hero in his own story. Up against the Fetterlings, and the ultimate trickster Anansi, Tristan is in for the biggest adventure of his life.
Readers of all ages will love the adventures that Tristan finds himself on, as well as the connections to African and African American folklore. Mixed with humor and important themes such as grief and bravery, the first book of the Tristan Strong trilogy is truly a gem, and will be loved and appreciated by teachers and students alike.
Anansi is a popular folktale character who originated from West Africa. He was passed on to the Caribbean during the time of the transatlantic slave trade hundreds of years ago. Anansi often takes the shape of a spider, and is known as quite the trickster. He has the ability to outsmart, outwit, and beat his opponents using his cunning creativity. Although Anansi is a trickster, he is often seen as the protagonist in his stories, as he learns lessons from his weaknesses and turns them into messages of triumph and goodness.
Check out our lesson plans for Anansi The Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti by Gerald McDermott!
Folktales, which are popular stories that have typically been passed on from generation to generation by word of mouth, have been around for centuries. These types of stories were often told at the end of the day, around a fire in the dark, and are traditionally called “Tales By Moonlight”. African folktales often feature animals who take on human characteristics such as greed, vanity, honesty, humility, etc., who learn one or more lessons by the tale’s end. With such a rich history that includes forced enslavement and transportation to other continents such as North America and South America, African folktales are well known all over the world. In addition to folk tales, there are many famous African myths, proverbs, legends, and riddles.
A fable is a short story that conveys a lesson or a moral that is usually stated at the end of the story. Fables feature animals and natural elements as the main characters. Fables have four main features: symbolism, anthropomorphization, humor, and a lesson learned. Some examples of well known lessons are, “No act of kindness is ever wasted”, and “Slow and steady wins the race”. Folktales and fables can often be intertwined, and like folktales, fables have been around for centuries. Fables are used in education to teach students lessons about hard work and responsibility, but they are also often used in reading and in writing as anchor texts, before students write their own stories.
Who is Kwame Mbalia? Kwame Mbalia is a New York Times bestselling author and Howard University graduate who lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with his wife and two daughters. Believe it or not, he’s more than just an author; he’s also a former pharmaceutical metrologist!
Mbalia is also the author of the other Tristan Strong books, Tristan Strong Destroys the World, and Tristan Strong Keeps Punching. In addition to these novels, he also co-wrote Last Gate of the Emperor with Prince Joel Makonnen, and was the editor of Black Boy Joy, a book of short stories written by critically acclaimed Black authors. Kwame Mbalia loves talking to and visiting with children and often does virtual visits since COVID. Prior to COVID, Mbalia visited schools and inspired children to write and be creative.
These questions may be used during reading, or upon completion of the novel. While it is best to get students discussing what they’ve read, these questions can also be answered individually in a reader’s notebook. It is always such a joy to hear the different opinions that students have, even though they are reading the same novel!
Storyboard That is an excellent tool for students to create fun and engaging projects as a culminating activity after finishing a novel. In addition to our premade activities, here are some ideas that teachers can customize and assign to students to spark creativity in individual students, pairs, or small groups for a final project. Several of these ideas include Storyboard That templates that can be printed out or copied into your teacher dashboard and assigned digitally. All final projects can be printed out, presented as a slide show, or, for an extra challenge, as an animated GIF!
Storyboard That is the perfect tool for novel lesson plans and activities because it's so easy to use and extremely versatile. With Storyboard That, you can create a wide variety of storyboards such as the story from the main character's perspective, or any other character's point of view.
You can also use Storyboard That to create a summary of the book, a movie poster, or analyze themes and events. Plus, our printable worksheets make it easy to take the fun offline.
Storyboarding is an incredibly powerful tool for educators because it helps students process and understand the information in a deep, meaningful way. When students storyboard, they are actively engaged in the learning process and can make connections between the text and their own lives.
Storyboards also promote higher-level thinking by encouraging students to synthesize information and think critically about what they have read. Finally, storyboards are a great way to assess student understanding because they provide a visual representation of student learning.
Some of the well known characters in Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky are John Henry, Brer Rabbit and Fox, and Anansi the Spider.
Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky is about a boy named Tristan who is guilt ridden and grief stricken following the death of his best friend. Tristan is transported to the parallel world of Alke, where he must battle evil and experience many adventures.
Tristan’s best friend Eddie dies in a tragic bus accident. This leaves Tristan consumed by guilt and sadness.