Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia is a must-read for mythology fans. Mbalia draws characters from West African legends (such as Nyama and Anansi) and African-American folk tales (such as John Henry and Brer Rabbit) to create an exciting quest adventure story.
Seventh grader Tristan Strong doesn’t feel like a hero. He feels like a disappointment. He couldn’t save his best friend when they were in a bus accident. Now someone has taken his friend’s journal of stories.
While trying to get it back, he punches a Bottle Tree and accidentally opens a hole in the sky of MidPass. If he wants to get home, he’ll have to help repair the sky, defeat an evil haint, and bring peace to this realm.
Back home in Chicago, Tristan never had any success in the boxing ring, but here he fights with a purpose, taking out wave after wave of fetterlings with his fists. Even better, he learns that he’s an anansesum, a storyteller like his Nana. And storytelling is a true superpower in this world.
If all of that’s not reason enough to read this book, I’ll give you one more: Gum Baby. Out of all the excellent characters in this story, she’s my favorite. Her sass and her sap attacks made me laugh and cheer. Just don’t shush her!
Listen up, Percy Jackson fans. You’re going to want to put Rebecca Roanhorse’s Race to the Sun on your wish list. It’s an action-packed quest adventure that draws on the Navajo legend of the Hero Twins.
Seventh grader Nizhoni Begay dreams of being a middle school superstar. But her one special talent is that she can recognize monsters. Unfortunately, no one believes her when she tells them that her dad’s new boss is up to no good.
Then, her dad is kidnapped, and only Nizhoni, her younger brother, and her best friend Davery can rescue him. They’ll have to pass a series of trials to reach the House of the Sun and obtain the weapons they’ll need to defeat the monsters.
Some of my favorite things about this book were:
Mr. Yazzie, the wise horned toad, who mentors Nizhoni.
The prophetic poem that Nizhoni receives from the mysterious snack lady in the train station.
The Navajo mythological figures that appear in the story.
The fact that Nizhoni, her brother, and Davery have complementary skills.
The satisfying final battle.
Thank you to Disney-Hyperion and NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read an advance copy of this book. Its expected publication date is January 14, 2020.
Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee combines Korean mythology, science fiction, and mystery in a terrific adventure story. Larrabee and I both loved it.
Min is a 13-year-old fox spirit living on a poor planet with her mother, aunts, and cousins. When her older brother, a cadet in the Thousand Worlds Space Forces, is accused of deserting his post to search for the fabled Dragon Pearl, Min runs away from home to find him. Her quest takes her across the galaxy toward the Ghost Sector.
Some of the things I liked best about this book are:
Min’s fox magic. In addition to acute senses of smell and hearing, Min has the ability to shape shift and to use Charm to influence other people’s behavior. Although she’s grown up assuming a human form and hiding her magic at her mother’s insistence, all of her special abilities prove useful in her search for her brother.
The Thousand Worlds. From Min’s dome house on dusty Jinju to the sleek corridors of the battle cruiser Pale Lightning, the book’s settings drew me into the story.
Min’s allies. Throughout the story, Min finds friends and allies in unexpected places. I particularly liked the goblin Sujin and the dragon Haneul.
Dragon Pearl is a fast-paced, suspenseful, and immersive read. I recommend it.
If you had a choice between (a) admitting to three of your 7th grade classmates that you’d lied to impress them, or (b) lighting a cursed lamp that your mom had told you not to touch, what would you do?
Understandably, 12-year-old Aru lights the lamp— just for a moment. But in doing so, she releases the Sleeper, a demon who will summon Lord Shiva and bring about the end of time. Now her classmates and her mother are frozen, and she has just nine days to stop the Sleeper.
There is some good news for Aru. She learns that she is the reincarnation of one of the five Pandava brothers from the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata, so she’s not alone. She’ll have the help of one of her divine siblings, a girl named Mini, and mentor in the form of a pigeon named Subala (or Boo for short). The bad news, though, is that their quest will take them into the Kingdom of Death, where they’ll have to obtain the celestial weapons before their showdown with the Sleeper.
This book was published under Disney-Hyperion’s new imprint, Rick Riordan Presents, and it will appeal to fans of Riordan’s Percy Jackson, Carter and Sadie Kane, and Magnus Chase books. Like Riordan’s books, Aru Shah blends features of modern life and mythology. For example, Aru and her companions find the Night Bazaar of the Otherworld inside a Costco. It also has a good mix of high stakes action and humor (including funny chapter titles).
Larrabee and I both enjoyed it and are eagerly awaiting the next book in the series.
The books, The Red Pyramid, The Throne of Fire, and The Serpent’s Shadow, make great summer reading books. They have action, danger, humor, and lots of ancient Egyptian gods. Carter and Sadie Kane take turns telling the stories. They’re brother and sister, descendants of powerful Egyptian magicians from the House of Life. Fans of Riordan’s Percy Jackson series will like these books too.
It’s always satisfying to find connections between books and real life. Some of my favorites from our museum visit:
“So that’s what a crook and flail look like!”
“That must be Tawaret!”
“Shabtis are real!”
We also found an oversized Senet game, scarab amulets, hieroglyphs, a panel depicting the judging of a soul with the feather of truth, a replica of the Rosetta Stone, and statues of many Egyptian gods who make an appearance in the books. It felt like a treasure hunt.
In Norse Mythology,Neil Gaiman retells the stories of Odin, Thor, Loki, and the other gods, goddesses, dwarves, and giants of the nine worlds. It’s fast-paced and funny–a thoroughly enjoyable read.
Larrabee read this book first and then lent it to me. He loved it, although he reported that “The Mead of Poets” was a little scarring for an eight year old. Especially one who’s written some bad haiku. You’ll have to read the book yourself to understand why.
I’m less familiar with the Norse myths than I am with Greek and Roman mythology, so many of these stories were new to me. I’ve encountered some of the characters in popular culture, though, including in Gaiman’s Odd and the Frost Giants, and Rick Riordan’s Magnus Chase series, and it was nice to get their full story.