Synopsis (From GoodReads):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. . . .
Review:When I first read the synopsis of Xander And The Lost Island Of Monsters, by Margaret Dilloway, I was immediately interested. This very Percy Jackson-esque story centers around Japanese mythology. Having lived in Japan for several years, I was hooked.
While it WAS very much like the Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan, I really enjoyed this book because it added some wonderful twists to the genre. It had a unique main character, insight into an exotic culture's traditions and stories, and a powerful message of solving problems with one's brain, rather than with one's weapons.
Xander is a very short, mixed race 12 year old from California. His Irish mom took off ages ago, so he lives with his Japanese father and Obachan (grandma). He is not a jock like his best friend Peyton, or in the gifted program like most of his classmates. He would much rather doodle than pay attention in class. Will Xander become the "ne'er do well" everyone expects him to be?
I enjoyed all the little touches of Japanese culture that permeated this book. From the food (Onigiri - rice filled with goodies) to the way Xander enters his house (saying, "Tadiama" which means, "I'm home"), this book was authentic and shows much of the culture in an endearing way.
It was also a fun introduction to Japanese folk tales such as Momotaro (Peach Boy), and magical characters such as Kitsune (the clever field fox) and the lovable Tanuki (the racoon-dog). These characters are as well known in Japan as Little Red Riding Hood is known in the U.S.
I especially loved that Xander did not need to suddenly become a weapons expert to defeat the bad guys. While there was plenty of action and fighting, there were also many instances where Xander needed to use his head to solve riddles and hidden meanings. His imagination was his super power!
With it's unusual protagonist, use of Japanese culture, and clever message of using brain power over shock and awe, this book is a refreshing tale that should delight middle grade readers.
Release Date: April 5, 2016
Format: Paperback copy
Recommendation: A satisfying start to a series that will expose middle grade readers to mythology from Japan. This is a fun introduction filled with wonderful characters and friendships.