It seems I cannot walk into Piedmont Elementary School (where I’m a Read Aloud volunteer) without someone shoving a book into my hands and saying, “You just have to read this!” whether it’s the principal, a student or some other visitor coming through the door from the other direction.
So numerous have been the appeals this year to read “Percy Jackson and The Olympians: The Lightning Thief” by Rick Riordan, that I broke down. OK. I’ll give it a try.
Of course, “Percy Jackson” came out in 2005. I meant to read it then but never did. The fifth (and final) book in the series was published in 2009.
Readers may recognize some familiar ideas in kid lit — Percy is middle-school age, living with his mom and revolting stepdad. His real dad is gone. Percy changes schools a lot. When the story begins, he is getting a fresh start at a boarding school, where it is hoped they will be able to help him. All sounds like pretty typical troubled kid stuff, right? Then one of his teachers morphs into some kind of monster and attacks him. His friends and protectors had been undercover around him. They spring into action. There are chases and fights and a group of half-god, half-mortal teenagers trying to find their way in life.
I liked this book. It didn’t keep me up at night or send me out in the dark after the sequel, but I enjoyed it.
Since I wasn’t jumping-up-and-down bursting to recommend it, as were the 10-somethings recommending it to me, I asked a couple of students in the class where I read at Piedmont to write a few lines on why they praise these books so enthusiastically.
Here’s what I got from Clare Higgins, fifth grade:
“A story of adventure and awesomeness. If you read it, then put it down for a few months and then reread it, you will notice little things that you didn’t notice before, and it will become more amazing.”
And here is the response from James Kinslow, fourth grade:
“Well, when I first saw the title I thought it would be cool to read, so I asked my sister if I could borrow her book, and I liked it from the first page about the warning and all that. So what I really liked about it was the action and mystery about who stole the master bolt. I still can’t believe how [spoiler deleted]. That really caught me by surprise. You should read the rest of the series. It is awesome.”
When the film version of the first volume appeared last year, plenty of fans complained that there was too much substantive change of characters and plot details. The film is scheduled for DVD/Blu-Ray release this summer. Work on the second film has commenced.
Here’s the excerpt that James mentioned, from page 1 of “The Lightning Thief”:
I ACCIDENTALLY VAPORIZE MY PRE-ALGEBRA TEACHER
Look, I didn’t want to be a half-blood.
If you’re reading this because you think you might be one, my advice is: close this book right now. Believe whatever lie your mom or dad told you about your birth, and try to lead a normal life.
Being a half-blood is dangerous. It’s scary. Most of the time, it gets you killed in painful, nasty ways.
If you’re a normal kid, reading this because you think it’s fiction, great. Read on. I envy you for being able to believe that none of this ever happened.
But if you recognize yourself in these pages — if you feel something stirring inside — stop reading immediately. You might be one of us. And once you know that, it’s only a matter of time before they sense it too, and they’ll come for you.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
My name is Percy Jackson.
I’m twelve years old. Until a few months ago, I was a boarding student at Yancy Academy, a private school for troubled kids in upstate New York.
Am I a troubled kid?
Yeah. You could say that.