Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief

A friend has lent us the Percy Jackson and The Olympians series, and so far, we've finished the first one - amazing!! A while back, I bought Evalina Treasury of Greek Mythology: Classic Stories of Gods, Goddesses, Heroes & Monsters, which she has been poring through and memorizing, so I knew that the Percy Jackson series would be right up her alley - and how right I was!
Image courtesy Amazon.com

The Story:  Percy Jackson has always been considered a "troubled" child.  He has dyslexia and ADHD, and gets kicked out of every school he attends.  He loves his mother dearly, but never knew his father.  His stepfather (Percy refers to him as Smelly Gabe) is unloving and unlovable, and wants to just play poker and drink beer while ordering Percy's mom around... Percy runs into trouble during his sixth grade year of a kind he never expected.  His math teacher turns into some kind of monster on a field trip and tries to kill him, and his favorite teacher gives him a pen that turns into a sword with which he saves himself.  And then no one else remembers it at all.  They don't even remember the monster math teacher *before* she turned into a monster.  And that's not even the strangest thing... his aforementioned favorite teacher turns out not to be a wheelchair bound man at all, but in fact, a centaur - and  Percy's best friend, Grover turns out to be a satyr!  Percy himself finds out that he is much more than a normal, if troubled, kid... he's a half-blood, and his father is a god!  Chased by monsters, his mother brings him to Camp Half-Blood, where other demi-gods live and train (at least in summers), and while Percy makes it, his mom has a run-in with a minotaur, and is not so lucky.  At Camp Half-Blood, Percy works on coming to terms with his new life, figures out which god is his father, and then finds himself given a quest in which he must succeed, or there will be a war between the gods on Olympus the likes of which the world may not survive.

The Good:  The storytelling in this book is wonderful, and we are looking forward to the rest of the series very much.  Percy is a likable hero, and isn't perfect, so he's easy to relate to.  His friends Grover and Annabeth (a daughter of Athena), who accompany him on his quest, are great characters in their own rights.  The gods are portrayed in ways that mesh with classic stories, but also make them fit into our modern world.   It's very clever and compelling storytelling.

The Bad: Sometimes, it was rough for Evalina to take.  Percy lost his mom in the run in with the minotaur (is she dead?  Is she trapped in Hades?  Can he get her back?) was the source of many tears... we kept reading, and she got over it, but it is jarring.  The story is action packed, and that is mostly a good thing, but the more sensitive child might have problems with it.

The Verdict:  Excellent.  We are already several chapters into the second book, and would recommend this series to others.  It does help to have a reference book of Greek mythology handy, and I think that Evalina (at 9) might be a bit young to read it on her own yet - but it was a great read-aloud!