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Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters by Margaret Dilloway ⇉ A Modern Spin on Japanese Mythology

Friday, April 7, 2017
There's something magical about children's books that captivates me. No matter how old I get, I don't believe that I'll ever tire of them. Xander and the Lost Island combines the magic of children's books with Japanese mythology. There aren't enough books featuring Asian culture and characters, so I'm always ecstatic to find one on a topic that I love!


Asian MC
There are few books—and still fewer middle grade books—out there with an Asian hero. As soon as I saw this novel had a Japanese hero (well, Japanese-Irish hero), my interest was piqued. Growing up, I didn't have many books with heroes who looked like me, so I appreciate this book having an Asian MC.

Japanese Mythology & Norms
I love East Asian culture, and that includes learning more about the mythologies. The figures in Japanese mythology are very different from Western mythology. This novel provides a fun introduction to some of the figures of Japanese mythology as well as some of the cultural norms. It may provide a jumping board for young readers to learn more about another culture. (Though I wouldn't take this as the authoritative text. Xander grows up in America, and his mind is definitely one of a child going through puberty.)

Good family dynamics
I grew up with strong family values. Many novels will subvert family values by presenting irreconcilable family conflicts, but Xander presents a close-knit family, albeit one missing its mother but one in which the grandmother is prominent as a figure of wisdom. I'm especially grateful for how Xander's father shows understanding of his son's gifts and accepting of his differences from conventional norms for giftedness.

Beautiful artwork
Xander is a story in which art, creativity, and imagination are prominent themes. I love how the story blends full-page illustrations of events in the novel. This is a highly imaginative novel, and I enjoyed seeing illustrations of the figures that Xander runs into over the course of his adventure.


Adults are Absent or in Need of Saving
It's a common cliche in children's books that the adults are inept or not as strong as the children. That said, I believe that children will find this element more enjoyable as this novel empowers children to take the initiative in situations where they may not have an adult present. One of the biggest fears of children is the fear of being alone without an adult figure; Xander's story proves that, while such a situation is not ideal, a child can pull through.

Puberty Troubles
Xander can be a bit of a brat and know-it-all. However, it is also to be expected of his age group, and it provides good opportunity for character growth. (And Xander does learn!)


Overall, Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters is an enjoyable middle-grade fantasy adventure with Japanese mythological elements. Young readers will enjoy exploring the island with Xander and learning that heroes are not born—they're forged by trial. Parents reading this book may discuss with their children what they may do to grow into a hero's role as Xander does!


Xander Miyamoto would rather do almost anything than listen to his sixth grade teacher, Mr. Stedman, drone on about weather disasters happening around the globe. If Xander could do stuff he's good at instead, like draw comics and create computer programs, and if Lovey would stop harassing him for being half Asian, he might not be counting the minutes until the dismissal bell.

When spring break begins at last, Xander plans to spend it playing computer games with his best friend, Peyton. Xander's father briefly distracts him with a comic book about some samurai warrior that pops out of a peach pit. Xander tosses it aside, but Peyton finds it more interesting.

Little does either boy know that the comic is a warning. They are about to be thrust into the biggest adventure of their lives-a journey wilder than any Xander has ever imagined, full of weird monsters even worse than Lovey. To win at this deadly serious game they will have to rely on their wits, courage, faith, and especially, each other. Maybe Xander should have listened to Mr Stedman about the weather after all. . . .


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Which legendary hero's powers would you like to inherit and why?

Publication Info
  • Momotaro by Margaret Dilloway
  • Published by Disney-Hyperion
  • On April 5, 2016
  • Genres: FantasyMiddle Grade
  • Pages: 320 Pages
  • Format: Hardback
Series: Momotaro
  1. Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters
  2. Xander and the Dream Thief
  • Bullying
  • Xander draws a caricature of a classmate as a baboon
  • Monsters that are potentially frightening for young readers
  • Violence (not graphic)

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel for review. All thoughts expressed are my personal honest opinions.

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