This weekend I finally finished reading Rick Riordan's The Lightning Thief, the first book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. I would ordinarily have read this book in about two or three days, but I was listening to it on MP3, and happened to start it right before an extended hiatus in my regular walks. Anyway, I LOVED The Lightning Thief, and I was very disappointed that it was snubbed by the Newberry committee last week.
The Lightning Thief is about Percy, a modern-day 12-year-old dyslexic boy who learns that one of his parents is a god (as in the original Greek gods). While this explains a lot of strange things that have happened in Percy's life, it's just the beginning of his adventures. These adventures range from fitting in at camp to learning self-defense (with real swords) to going on an epic quest to - no, I don't want to spoil it for you.
Several things made this book stand out for me. First off was the clarity of Percy's voice. He sounds like a 12-year-old boy. His internal insecurities and mistakes are believable, because they just sound right. Rick Riordan was a middle school teacher for 15 years, and I think that this definitely comes across. The supporting characters are also well-drawn and realistic.
Also, Percy's dyslexia, ADHD, and behavioral problems are integrated into the story as differences that are part of what make him who he is, rather than as negative attributes. I think that this will resonate with everyone - children and adult - because we all have differences. I think that the absentee nature of the Greek god parents will also, sadly, resonate with many readers.
Rick Riordan does a wonderful job of sprinkling the book with interesting mythological information while never "teaching" the reader. I think that this is important, because books that set out to teach, with heavy hand, just aren't fun to read. The Lightning Thief, however, is a lot of fun to read. The plot has twists and turns, drama and sadness and betrayal. I recommend it as a great read for children and adults.
I also recommend Rick Riordan's adult novels, the Tres Navarre series. This series is set in San Antonio. It features a private investigator who gets into some pretty dark and gritty situations, but maintains a sense of humor through it all. You can also check out Rick's blog.
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.