Welcome to Day 12 of the 6th Annual March MG Madness, featuring Margaret Dilloway and her Momotaro Series!
Xander and the Dream Thief
By Margaret Dilloway
April 18, 2017
Xander Miyamoto should be feeling great. It's the beginning of summer vacation, his mother has returned from a long absence, and he has learned that he is a warrior with special powers. Xander never would have guessed that the old Japanese folktale about Momotaro, the hero who sprang from a peach pit, was real, much less part of his own heritage.
But instead of reveling in his recent victory against the oni, monsters bent on creating chaos, Xander is feeling resentful. What took his mother so long to come back? Why does his father insist on ruining the summer with study and training? And why is Xander plagued by nightmares every night? Maybe this whole Momotaro thing is overrated.
Xander's grandmother gives him a special baku charm to use to chase his nightmares away. He just has to be careful not to rely on it too much. If he does, the baku will not only take his dreams, but those of everyone in the house, forever. Without dreams, there is no hope, no motivation, no imagination, no Momotaro. And then it would be far too easy for Ozuno, king of the oni, to wreak havoc. . . .
On his second quest, Xander explores new surreal landscapes, encounters more strange and dangerous creatures, and faces even higher stakes as he learns whether or not he has what it takes to be Momotaro.
Book 1 in the series
(click cover to learn more)
by Margaret Dilloway
Thanks so much for having me on here! I want to talk about one of the most important themes of Xander and the Dream Thief. This book is all about how Xander handles his new powers—or doesn’t handle them. At first he’s kind of using them too much, and his dad warns against doing that. But he can’t help himself, and soon he gets himself (and his whole family) into serious trouble.
Xander’s got to learn how to manage his thoughts and emotions. In his case, they really affect his magic; but all of us have to figure this out at some point. Or else we get into trouble, too. I know there are plenty of times when losing my cool caused me to do poorly on a test, or get into a fight I didn’t want to have, or eat way too many chocolate chip cookies at a time!
A lot of the book is all about how words affect your actions and your thoughts. A hypnotherapist I met had an interesting exercise that he did with kids. He demonstrated it on my daughters. In one of the exercises, they had to say, “I’m weak, I’m weak, I’m weak,” and then attempt to lift up the other one. They couldn’t do it. Then they had to say, “I’m strong, I’m strong, I’m strong,” and then they could lift each other up! It was pretty amazing. (Keep in mind one daughter is six years younger than the other and could lift the older one up. Just for a second, but still!)
This exercise demonstrated that when you say something out loud, or you think it, then you internalize it, too. So if you’re always saying, “I’m no good at math,” for example, then pretty soon that becomes your reality. If you say instead, “I can work through this—I will figure this out. I can do it!” then that becomes your reality. Words really can hurt people!
I read a lot of Japanese myths and martial arts theory books for this book too, many of them written hundreds of years ago. Many of them also contain this theme: you can’t be a great warrior until you learn how to control your emotions and thoughts. I think that’s true of life in general. If we want to be successful at anything—school, work, sports—we have to learn how to be the masters of our minds.
And of course, Xander goes on another grand adventure and meets even weirder creatures than he did in the first book. At least one of them is based on a real-life thing you can find in current-day Japan!
Margaret Dilloway is the recipient of the American Library Association's Literary Tastes Award for Best Women's Fiction for THE CARE AND HANDLING OF ROSES WITH THORNS. She is also the author of HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE and SISTERS OF HEART AND SNOW, all from Putnam Books.
In addition to her women's fiction, Dilloway will debut a middle-grade fantasy series for Disney-Hyperion Books in April 2015, MOMOTARO: XANDER AND THE LOST ISLAND OF MONSTERS. website * facebook