Review: Xander & Lost Island of Monsters

“There must be a logical explanation for all of this. I just don’t know what it is yet.” page 57

Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters (Momotaro #1) by Margaret Dilloway, illustrated by Choong Yoon.
Disney Hyperion, New York, 2016.
MG fantasy, 310 pages.
Lexile: not leveled.
AR Level: 3.9 (worth 10.0 points) .

Xander Musashi Miyamoto is your average 6th grader – obsessed with video games, could care less about his homework project on climate change. Also latest in a long line of Momotaros – with a life-or-death quest. As the smallest boy in his class, it’s a good thing his best friend was around when the magic hit – Xander will need all the help he can get.

Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters (Momotaro #1) by Margaret Dilloway, illustrated by Choong Yoon.

Xander is biracial white/Asian, and Dilloway specifies both. I was intrigued to see how his Ainu heritage would play out. Indigenous people of Japan, Ainu are even today subject to racism, cultural appropriation, and suppression. His father’s Ainu/Japanese family could be mixed, but if they teach him he’s part Ainu, presumably they’d retain other cultural markers too. Although today considered white, Irish Americans like his mother were once a hated minority.

People remark on Xander’s ethnicity, from a mean classmate to overheard remarks from his best friend’s father and even his own grandmother’s suggestion that his powers will be completely different because he’s biracial. Xander also remarks specifically on the lack of a local Asian community. I wondered why his father chose to stay in the San Diego suburbs and how the local university supported an Asian mythology professor if his family are the only Asians there, but was mostly willing to accept the hand-wavy magic of it.

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