Learn the mythology and folklore that fills ‘Tristan Strong’ stories

Middle-grade readers should appreciate the humor and colorful vision of Sno-Isle Libraries’ next Open Book guest author, Kwame Mbalia, who will join us at 10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 17.

Sign up for this Zoom webinar and learn how Mbalia started his work life in pharmaceuticals before becoming a writer, husband and father who survives on Dad jokes and Cheezits. Mbalia’s visit will be recorded for later viewing on Sno-Isle Libraries’ YouTube channel. The video will be available for 90 days after posting.

Mbalia’s 2019 debut novel, “Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky,” features many elements that come from African mythology or from African-American folklore. Title character Tristan Strong is a seventh grader who feels anything but strong after losing his best friend Eddie in a bus crash. All he has left of Eddie is his journal. When Tristan visits his grandparents’ Alabama farm, a creature steals Eddie’s notebook. In the fight to get the journal back, Tristan punches a tree and finds himself in the middle of a battle that has left black American folk heroes John Henry and Brer Rabbit exhausted.

To get back home, Tristan and these new allies will need to entice the god Anansi, the Weaver, to come out of hiding. Can Tristan save this world before he loses more of the things he loves?

The second book in the trilogy is “Tristan Strong Destroys the World.” Tristan must return to Alke and enlist the help of African gods and black folktale heroes after a mysterious, vengeful villain abducts Nana from the Strong family farm in Alabama. Tristan reunites with his sidekick Gum Baby to rescue Nana and stop the culprit from spreading havoc.

Anansi is close at hand to offer advice and several new folk heroes will aid Tristan in his quest, but he will only succeed if he can sew broken souls back together.

Tristan Strong Keeps Punching” (due for release Oct. 5) completes the trilogy. Tristan is supposed to be watching his younger cousin Terrance when he sees his archenemy, King Cotton. A mysterious girl, Sepaphine, grabs his magic cellphone and seems to know everything about Tristan and the god Anansi. She has a mission for Tristan, one that leads to a final confrontation with haint King Cotton.

It takes many Alkean friends, including the gods themselves, the black flames of the afokena gloves, and all of Tristan’s inner strength to deliver justice once and for all.

Mbalia is also co-author of “Last Gate of the Emperor” with Prince Joel Makonnen, and editor of “Black Boy Joy,” a middle-grade anthology from 17 acclaimed Black male and nonbinary authors with stories, comics, and poems about the power of joy and the wonders of Black boyhood.

Mbalia lives with his wife and children in Raleigh, N.C. Follow him on Twitter @KSekouM.

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