Dilloway introduces Xander Miyamoto, a talented cartoon artist and otherwise average eighth-grader living outside San Diego.
Motherless Xander comes from an ancient line of Japanese heroes called Momotaro, who travel with a dog, a monkey, and a pheasant. “You’ve seen all the horrible tragedies happening around us,” says Xander’s grandmother Obachan. “That means the oni are very strong indeed. Momotaro is the warrior who keeps them at bay.” These Japanese mythological creatures heighten the tension in this frenetic quest, which is punctuated by Yoon’s mangalike illustrations. Right at the start, an earthquake and flood transport the scrawny boy, his dog, Inu, and his athletic white pal, Peyton, into a parallel universe of monsters that rival anything from Greek mythology. As foreshadowed by one of Xander’s own comic books, the boys travel through dangerous lands, facing brutal traps and shape-shifting demons with the help of a prickly girl named Jinx. Xander’s narration effectively balances the inner turmoil facing the main characters against the beasts they battle. Even when Xander sleeps, his subconscious mind becomes the most powerful tool he has. Xander is mixed-race, Japanese and white, an identity that is explored sensitively and forthrightly.
A breathless retelling of the Japanese legend of Momotaro, this is an Asian version of Percy Jackson; adventure fans will be waiting for more. (Fantasy. 8-12)