Friday, August 7, 2009

The Lightning Thief

Riordan, Rick. The Lightning Thief. Percy Jackson & the Olympians. 1. New York: Miramax Books/Hyperion Books for Children, 2005.
[Book cover credit:]

Child Magazine Best Book (2005)
New York Times Notable Book (2005)
School Library Journal Best Book of the Year (2005)
VOYA Top Shelf Fiction List (2005)
ALA Best Books for Young Adults (2006)
American Library Association Notable Children's Book (2006)
Cooperative Children's Book Center Choice Award (2006)
ALA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults (2008)
Mark Twain Award (2008)
And at least a dozen regional awards ranging from 2005-2009

Sixth grade looks like it might just be the magic year for Percy Jackson, the year he gets through without the threat of expulsion. He's on a field trip, chaperoned by his Latin and math teachers, when things start to go incredibly wrong. His math teacher tries to kill him, his Latin teacher throws him a pen with which to defend himself, and afterward, no one else seems to have noticed a thing. This is just the beginning of a string of events that leads him to Camp Half-Blood where he finds out that he is the half-god son of Poseidon, the God of the Sea. Percy also finds out that he's being accused of stealing Zeus's most powerful lightning bolt and that he must accept a quest to find the true thief and clear his name, not to mention save himself from the wrath of Zeus. If only every summer camp were this exciting.

I somehow managed to miss the entire Percy Jackson phenomenon when it started up a few years ago, but with all the buzz for the last book The Last Olympian, I thought I'd try to catch up.

The Lightning Thief was a quick read, but an engrossing one. I think that's why it's managed to appeal to teens much older than the reading level would indicate. The mythology presented is not your average "Poseidon is in the water, Zeus is in the sky, Hades is underground," although those three facts are very important too. There are minor details of less well-known (or less well-remembered from my junior high days) myths that are REALLY IMPORTANT to Percy and his friends. Luckily, one of his best friends is a daughter of Athena (wisdom) and explains everything along the way. Still, there were some characters and stories referenced that I didn't feel like I understood completely. This did not detract from Percy's story at all. I was perfectly happy to go back and look things up once I'd finished the book. I looked folks up on Wikipedia, but for collection purposes, it would probably be nicer to have a guide to mythology of some sort that is around the same reading level as these books.

This book does do the annoying series thing, where the last line is just a teaser/cliff-hanger for the next book. That's fine with me, for now, since I checked out books 1-3 all at once and book 4 is already being held for me at the library. I'll probably mind a bit more when I finish book 4 and am still on the waiting list at the library for book 5.

Book source: College library (with a great Juvenile collection for edu majors)

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