Percy Jackson & the Olympians

Book 1: The Lightning Thief

 

by Rick Riordan

 

Disney-Hyperion Books for Young Readers

 

Reader Appeal: 10-14 year olds (and cool parents)

 

Genre: Fantasy

 

Most field trips are pretty forgettable. Unless you’re Percy Jackson and you accidentally vaporize your math teacher on a trip to the museum. Well, it wasn’t really his math teacher—it was a monster in the form of his math teacher.

 

Maybe I’d better explain…

 

Twelve-year-old Percy Jackson bounced from boarding school to boarding school, with disaster and frustration the only constant in his life. He always knew he was different—labeled as ADHD and dyslexic, kicked out of every school he ever attended—but Percy just thought that was life. But in sixth grade, a string of frightening events lead to the discovery that he’s the son of a Greek god (they still exist in this story's universe) with surprising powers.

 

Percy finds himself living at Camp Half-Blood, something like summer camp for children of Greek gods. Hades, the Greek god of the Underworld, doesn’t much care for these kids (or their parents), and often sends monsters from the Underworld to kill them. Camp Half Blood is a safe place where kids can learn how to defend themselves against Hades’ monsters, right after a morning of canoeing and volleyball. Days after Percy is thrown into this new and confusing world, he discovers that Zeus has accused him of stealing something valuable. Percy must go on a dangerous quest to find the stolen item and return it to Zeus.

 

Fortunately, Percy doesn’t go alone. Annabeth (a daughter of Athena) and Grover (a satyr who’s watched over Percy for the last year) go with Percy and guide him through the maze of the modern mythological world. The three travelers face everything from zebras in Las Vegas to a Chihuahua that turns into a monster at the top of the St. Louis Arch.

 

Preteens will dive into this book after they read the table of contents. Riordan knows kids, and draws them in with smile-inducing titles like “I Play Pinochle with a Horse” and “I Become Supreme Lord of the Bathroom.” The Lightning Thief connects with preteens in a big way. After all, what kid hasn’t secretly wished for super powers, or hoped that they really were someone special? This book plays off of some of the plot elements that made the Harry Potter series such a success—friendship, good vs. evil, power, and a new world of magic to be explored.

 

Although The Lightning Thief doesn’t leave Percy Jackson facing a long-standing or dangerous “quest,” preteens will be ready to pick up Book 2 in this clever series.

 

PopFam RATING: B

 

Let’s Talk About It

 

If your family members are interested in this book, then encourage discussion about it afterward. You can use these questions to get started:

 

• Percy has special powers because he’s the son of a mythological god. What “powers” do we have as children of God?

 

• At the end, Percy has to make a decision. What would you decide and why?

 

• How do you think Percy’s view of the afterlife compares to the real afterlife?

 

--JSB

 

Note: All book or comics-related graphics in this column are standard publicity/promotional shots and are owned by their respective publisher.

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