Whimsical Maps

Purchase Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky at Bookmarks // By Kwame Mbalia.
Winner of a Coretta Scott King Author Honor
Best-selling author Rick Riordan presents Kwame Mbalia’s epic fantasy, a middle grade American Gods set in a richly-imagined world populated with African American folk heroes and West African gods.

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 notebook. 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 folk heroes 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?

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky is a book filled with adventure, and you’ll find yourself on the edge of your seat, eager for the next page. When you first open the book, you’ll find a detailed map of Alke on the endsheets. If you’re anything like me, you love a good map – especially a fictional map! I spent 10 minutes studying the map before I even turned the page. I knew the project for this book would have to be designing a map!

Middle grades are often learning about maps, and even have a “create your own map” project. This is a perfect project for Social Studies curriculum that allows for some creativity and imagination.

Let’s create a whimsical map!


  • sheet of white cardstock
  • sheet of scrap paper
  • pencil
  • eraser
  • markers and/or colored pencils


click images for larger view

  • Do you have a favorite folk tale, or perhaps a story you have written? Think of the location, and any details shared in the story. 
  • Write down any details you would like to include in your map. 
  • Sketch out the map. This can be a quick sketch on a separate sheet of paper, and it helps determine the size of different locations and details. 
  • Draw the map in pencil on the sheet of cardstock.
  • Add elements you would find on a real map – a compass rose, a key, or a bar scale.
  • Trace over the pencil lines with a thin black marker, or colorful markers. 
  • Erase the pencil lines.
  • Use colored pencils to color in the map.


  • Before you start your map, you could write a story! If you were publishing your story, what would the map look like if it was printed on the endpages?


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