Book Review: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book One: The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan (Miramax, 2005)

15 May

2006, Disney-Hyperion, ISBN 978-0786838653

Plot Summary: The first book in the Percy Jackson & The Olympians series, The Lightning Thief introduces readers to Percy Jackson, demigod son of Poseidon, and his friends at Camp Half-Blood.

Percy, a sixth grader who’s been kicked out of several schools, suffers from dyslexia and ADHD; he’s never met his real father; and his mother, whom he adores, is married to a jerk who verbally abuses Percy and his mother. When monsters start coming after Percy and he discovers that his best friend isn’t exactly what he seems, his mother helps him escape to Camp Half-Blood in Long Island, where he finds out the missing information about his past and a great deal more. The Greek gods exist, and they have a lot of children populating the earth; Camp Half-Blood is a safe haven for them. Because he is the son Poseidon, of one of the “Big Three” – Zeus, Poseidon and Hades – he is hunted even more than the children of the other gods and goddess. He also learns that someone has stolen Zeus’ master lightning bolt and Zeus think it’s him.

Charged with finding the bolt and returning it to Mount Olympus in just 10 days, Percy heads out on his quest with his best friend, the faun Grover and Annabeth, daughter of Athena. Getting the lightning bolt back is just part of the puzzle: Percy must also learn who was really behind the theft, and in doing so, will uncover a plot to bring down Mount Olympus. The Lightning Thief was made into a movie in 2010.
Critical Evaluation: The Percy Jackson series is hugely popular with readers from middle grade to adult, and with good reason: it’s a well-written, exciting series with plenty of monsters, mythology and quests to keep boys and girls alike turning pages. There are fleshed-out, strong male and female characters and familiar monsters like Medusa and the minotaur make appearances throughout the series. Bringing mythology to life is a great way to make these stories accessible to a new generation, and giving these demigods learning disabilities like ADHD and dyslexia makes them relatable to a wider audience of readers who may be coping with these issues and rarely get to read about characters who also deal with them.
Reviews: School Library Journal (starred review): “An adventure-quest with a hip edge. Readers will be eager to follow the young protagonist’s next move.”
Horn Book Magazine: “Packed with humorous allusions to Greek mythology . . . along with rip-snorting action sequences, this book really shines.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review): “[A] riotously paced quest tale of heroism that questions the realities of our world, family, friendship and loyalty.”

Awards: School Library Journal Best Book of 2005; Chicago Public LIbrary Best of the Best Books List (2005); VOYA Top Shelf Fiction List (2005); Red House Children’s Book Award Winner (UK, 2006); Askews Torchlight Award (UK, 2006); Mark Twain Award (Missouri Association of School Librarians (2008); American LIbrary Association (ALA) Notable Book (2006); New York Times Notable Book (2005); Rebecca Caudill Young Readers’ Book Award (2009).
Author Information: Rick Riordan writes fantasy for young adults. The Lightning Thief is the first in a five-book series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians; his series The Heroes of Olympus, follows new heroes from Camp Half-Blood and references the original Percy Jackson characters.The author’s website offers information about all of his books, a link to his blog, and extras including a map of the Underworld and a Greek mythology guide. A Camp Half-Blood wikia offers exhaustive information created by Mr. Riordan’s fan community on all of his books, his characters, and the mythology that breathes life into his series.
Reader’s Annotation: Percy Jackson always felt like he was different, but when he finds out that he’s the son of a Greek god, he meets a group of teenagers just like him.
Genre: Fantasy. Subgenres: Action/adventure, mythology, families.
Booktalking Ideas: For years, Percy Jackson always felt different – and then he learned the truth about himself. The son of a Greek god, he learns that monsters are after him, and he goes to Camp Half-Blood, where he meets other demi-gods like him. Do you feel like being in your group of friends keeps you from feeling left out?
Reading Level/Interest Age: 11+
Challenge Issues/Defense: Mythological creatures, Greek pantheon of gods. Defense: This is a fantasy series that does not claim any religious ties.
Why did you include this book in the titles you selected?

I’ve enjoyed the Percy Jackson series for a few years, and thought it would be a good addition to a selection that may include reluctant readers and readers performing below grade level.


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