Tristan Strong Destroys the World: Tristan Strong, Book 2

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Tristan Strong Destroys the World: Tristan Strong, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Teen returns to land of African myth in rousing fantasy.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Tristan Strong Destroys the World features characters from African and African American folklore and mythology. It also addresses the legacies of slavery.

Positive Messages

Stories and literature are forces that keep the universe spinning. Friends and family make ssacrifices for each other.

Positive Role Models

Tristan Strong is a thoughtful, brave, and resourceful Black13-year-old, devoted to his family. He interacts with figures from folklore and mythology and feels responsible when plans go awry. He's not afraid to stand up to monsters who threaten his family and friends, but he doesn't rush into danger. Anansi and Gum Baby are trickster figures, but they eventually come around to doing right.

Violence & Scariness

Tristan battles monsters and magic, but rarely does anyone die or receive a permanent injury. He boxes with a formidable foe but prevails thanks to some magical gloves.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Kwame Mbalia'sTristan Strong Destroys the World continues the saga begun in Tristan Strong Breaks the Sky. The story chronicles Tristan's return to MidPass to rescue his grandmother, kidnaped by the Shamble Man. Along the way, he works with African gods and figures from folklore, including Anansi, Gum Baby, John Henry, and Keelboat Annie. There are violent scenes, but they're infrequent, usually bloodless, and not disturbing. Tristan battles monsters and magic, but rarely does anyone die or receive a permanent injury. 

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What's the story?

As TRISTAN STRONG DESTROYS THE WORLD opens, Tristan is still recuperating from his last visit to Alke, the land of African American folklore and West African myth. When his grandmother is abducted by an entity known as the Shamble Man, Tristan sets off in pursuit, accompanied by the spider god Anansi (who's trapped inside a smartphone), strongman John Henry, the annoying know-it-all Gum Baby, and the resourceful Keelboat Annie. Gods and mortals alike will clash and call upon the power of story to save themselves.

Is it any good?

Middle books in a series are notoriously difficult to pull off, but this energetic fantasy extends the magic of the first volume and charts new territory. In Tristan Strong Destroys the World, author Kwame Mbalia choreographs fun scenes filled with action, suspense, and humor, and Tristan's first-person narration is lively, revealing, and sometimes touching. Old favorites return to the supporting cast of heroes and villains, and if the plot sometimes seems to be marking time, most readers will be too enthralled to notice.

The themes of the story -- family pride, community resilience, and personal responsibility -- are well integrated into the action-packed narrative. Readers will eagerly await the final volume, which promises an earthshaking conclusion.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Tristan Strong Destroys the World uses African and African American folklore to tell a modern-day story. Why is mythology so often used as inspiration for works of art?

  • Why is persistence important to young athletes? Why does the repetition of certain tasks play such a key role in sports?

  • Gum Baby and Anansi can be annoying, but they also display a helpful aspect of their personalities. What makes people behave differently according to their surroundings?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy and books with characters of color

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