Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky: The Graphic Novel

After losing his best friend in a bus accident, Tristan is sent to stay with his grandparents for a month on their Alabama farm. The grief counselor thinks the fresh air and quiet will help Tristan process the trauma. Unfortunately, Gum Baby snatches the only thing Tristan has left of his friend, a journal of stories, and leads him on a chase that ends at a bottle tree. In his anger, Tristan punches one of the glass bottles which releases a haint (evil spirit) and tears a hole between his world and Gum Baby’s, called MidPass. 

In MidPass, Tristan meets more of the characters from his grandmother’s old stories; Brer Rabbit, John Henry, Brer Fox, and the People Who Could Fly. They work together to find the Story Box and replenish the stories to draw Anansi out to mend the hole between worlds. Along the way, Tristan meets the mysterious Uncle C, who also wants the stories to regain his strength. Tristan struggles with what being strong means and how to find his own strength. 

I knew about many of the legends mentioned in this story but not a lot of specifics. The adapter did a great job presenting enough information that the audience could follow along without drowning in the details. Honestly, I enjoyed learning about the stories from a culture I am less familiar with and appreciated that stories are presented as powerful as physical strength.  

Tristan does plenty of punching throughout the story as the title implies, which is showcased in full color. It was wonderful to see all the brown skin tones. The illustrations have enough details to convey what is happening in the story without making the art too heavy. And there are plenty of panels full of lighter colors to balance out the darker earthy backgrounds. 

Since this is from the Rick Riordan Presents lineup, it is marketed to readers between the ages of 8-12, and I agree with that assessment. There are some heavy subjects like grief, loss, and slavery; however, the story is not focused on those things. This would be an excellent addition to any graphic novel or general library collection. 

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky: The Graphic Novel
By Kwame Mbalia, and Robert Venditti
Art by Olivia Stephens
Rick Riordan Presents, 2022
ISBN: 9781368072809

Publisher Age Rating: 8-12
Related media:  Book to Comic

NFNT Age Recommendation: Tween (10-13)
Creator Representation:  African-American,  Character Representation: African-American

Aru Shah and the End of Time: The Graphic Novel

Aru Shah and the End of Time

Adapted by Joe Caramagna and illustrated by Anu Chouhan, this incredible adaptation brings new life to Roshani Chokshi’s New York Times bestselling novel, Aru Shah and the End of Time. This middle school adventure based on Hindu mythology is an attention-grabbing, humorous tale of growing up and learning things the hard way. 

Aru Shah, our twelve-year-old main character, is a very realistic and human protagonist who makes mistakes, poor choices, and learns from it all. This story starts off with Aru accidentally causing all of the problems that her and her friends have to resolve. We also quickly find out that Aru has a bad habit of lying—constantly—which gets her into some pretty sticky situations.

Three of Aru’s classmates show up at her mom’s Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture and challenge Aru to prove some of the crazy stories she’s been telling at school. They are particularly interested in the Lamp of Bharata, which turns out to have been serving as a prison for an immortal being.

Author Chokshi weaves in compelling background information taken directly from Hindu mythology about the origins of these artifacts and gods. She keeps the pace of the story going by focusing on the most captivating facts about the Hindu folklore, while the characters sort through all sorts of unexpected problems. 

Illustrator Anu Chouhan fills the pages with vibrant colors, including background hues that help set the tone for particular scenes. Readers will especially love the action scenes, which are filled with exciting representations of Hindu deities.

Overall, this is an awesome adaptation. I’m really looking forward to the rest of this series being adapted into graphic novel format. This fantasy series is very popular with middle schoolers at my library and it’s great to be able to tell them about this adaptation after they’ve read the novel and discuss with them what they thought of the changes different formats of stories makes. Readers who enjoyed the novel version of this adaptation will not be disappointed. I highly recommend adding this new series to any middle school library collection and watching for the second installment to come out.

Aru Shah and the End of Time: The Graphic Novel
By Roshani Chokshi, Adapted by Joe Caramagna
Art by Anu Chouhan
Rick Riordan Presents, 2022
ISBN: 9781368075053

Publisher Age Rating: 8-12

NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)