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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 journal. 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 gods 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?
1. In the beginning of the story, Tristan is going to his grandparents' home for a month.
2. Why is the journal so special to Tristan? Why is it so special to the Alkeans? What does
Tristan’s grandmother explain about the origins of the symbol on the journal?
3. Describe the first interaction between Gum Baby and Tristan. What is Gum Baby's
mission and who send Gum Baby on that mission?
4. What did Tristan's grandmother tell him about the Bottle Tree Forest and what happens
when Tristan breaks open one of the bottles?
5. Should Tristan trust the shadow he meets? Why or why not? What does the shadow
want? Who is the shadow?
6. What does Tristan learn about Alke?
7. When explaining the term “Anansesem” John Henry shares, “A storyteller. But more than
just words, more than once upon a time and the end. It’s about the entire experience, from
the audience to the stage to the spectacle. What does this suggest about storytelling in Alke?
Why is an Anansesem someone special? In your opinion, what makes a good storytelling
experience (e.g., imagine telling someone about a really good movie)?
8. What is the "story box" and where does Tristan have to go to find it?
9. What is the definition of an adinkra? How does the author intertwine adinkras throughout
the story? Which adinkras does Tristan collect? What is the meaning of each symbol? How
does each symbol help Tristan during his journey?
10. Who is Nyame and what does he give Tristan?
11. Who is Anansi and how does he fit into their plan?
12. Who was Anansi disguised as, and why?
13. How did Nyame punish Anansi?
Kwame is a husband, father, writer, a New York Times bestselling author, a former pharmaceutical metrologist, and a publisher with Freedom Fire Books, an imprint of Disney-Hyperion. His debut middle-grade novel, TRISTAN STRONG PUNCHES A HOLE IN THE SKY was awarded a Coretta Scott King Author Honor, and it—along with the sequels TRISTAN STRONG DESTROYS THE WORLD and TRISTAN STRONG KEEPS PUNCHING—is published by Rick Riordan Presents/Disney-Hyperion. He is the co-author of LAST GATE OF THE EMPEROR with Prince Joel Makonnen, from Scholastic Books, and the editor of the #1 New York Times bestselling anthology BLACK BOY JOY, published by Delacorte Press. A Howard University graduate and a Midwesterner now in North Carolina, he survives on Dad jokes and Cheezits.