Welcome to Week 6 of our Summer Reading Challenge! If you’d like to see other posts in this series, Summer Reading Challenge Page.
Introduction by Emily Whitten
Today, I’m happy to re-introduce you to our former intern, Hayley Schoeppler, who is now a permanent part of the staff as our Executive Assistant. (We’ll be posting her bio and picture on the About page shortly!) Til then, she has prepared this introduction to The Lightning Thief, the book she chose for our read along.
One quick note before I turn it over to Hayley. This book is significantly longer and a little more mature than our other summer reading selections. My kids are 7 and 5, and we have chosen to read one of the alternative book selections because of The Lightning Theif’s intense parts. (And mainly because my oldest was scared of the images on the front of the audiobook!) Instead, we chose Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Magical Car, though there are several others in our 100 Great Adventure Books for Kids list we hope to get to eventually.
For the rest of you who are reading The Lightning Thief or plan to read it in the near future, here is Hayley’s thoughtful take:
Book Review by Hayley Schoeppler
When I first met Percy Jackson, I was not impressed. He was immature, obnoxious, and I didn’t like his tone of voice. But then summer came and with it two and half months in Korea. And it was in Korea, on the second floor of a Korean bookstore, in the tiny English section, that I again met Percy Jackson. This second meeting shaped all of our further literary encounters. Was Percy still immature? Yes . . . Obnoxious? Slightly, but in all honesty, what adolescent boy has not been labeled by that adjective? As for his tone, this time I enjoyed the lively first person narrative!
Like him or not, one word that does not describe Percy Jackson is “unexciting.” From Chapter 1, in which “I Accidentally Vaporize My Pre-algebra Teacher” onward, there are few pauses in this roller-coaster adventure. This is one of the things that makes The Lightning Thief a great summer read for both reluctant readers and bookworms.
Percy Jackson is not a normal 12 year old, but it is not until a couple chapters into the book that he realizes how not-normal he is: Percy is a halfblood, one parent human, and one parent immortal which makes him a prime target for any number of interesting monsters keen on eliminating halfbloods, more properly termed demi-gods.
Any youngster who loves Greek mythology will thoroughly enjoy the host of references and appearances from the pantheon of Ancient Greece. As for the story, an exciting, perilous quest, a mysterious, worrying prophecy and two friends (one satyr and one bossy, know-it-all girl) are more than enough to keep things interesting. Does Percy grow along the way? A little. Is it worth the
ride read? Absolutely? And it might just get your reader hooked on a series that is long enough to occupy them the rest of this summer!
Note For Parents and Educators
Why read Percy Jackson? Yes, it is a New York Times #1 Bestseller and School Library Journal’s Best Book of the Year. It’s also a movie with a sequel coming out next month. But is it really worth your family’s time in light of the concerns I first mentioned?
I would argue, yes. Only you as a parent know your child, so you must judge accordingly, but I was happy to introduce my younger siblings to Percy Jackson. While Percy is portrayed as a typical adolescent boy, I would not classify him as a “bad role model.” He is close with his mother and looks up to his mentor. Really, he is too busy fighting monsters to have much time to be a punk. Could a child learn any bad habits from Percy? Yes, but as much as they could learn from any other literary character. (I would argue that Ramona from Beverly Cleary is a worse role model since her readers are at a far more impressionable age and her behavior is much easier to mimic!)
The Lightning Thief is appropriate for ages 9 & up, assuming a good reading ability. As the series progresses, the monsters do get a bit scarier, but the focus is action, not horror, and in any of the books, Percy’s narration and humor tends to lighten up even the most intense scenes.
One caution for further reading outside of Rick Riordan, is that while the gods in Percy Jackson are a philandering, strictly heterosexual bunch, that’s not the case in classical Greek mythology, so preview these books discerningly. For some safe, recommended resources see Emily’s post, Classics for Kids. Also, tune in on Thursday for some more recommended resources.
- The Greeks imagined a world–the world of Percy Jackson–governed by a group of petty yet powerful gods. As Percy says, “In a way, it’s nice to know there are Greek gods out there because you have somebody to blame when things go wrong. For instance, when you’re walking away from a bus that’s just been attacked by monster hags and blown up by lightning, and it’s raining on top of everything else, most people might think that’s just really bad luck; when you’re a half-blood, you understand that some divine force really is trying to mess up your day.” How does this compare to what we know as believers about the one, true God’s goodness and sovereignty?
- On page 67, Percy says to Chiron, “You’re telling me there’s such a thing as God?” Chiron replies, “Well now, God –capitol G, God. That’s a different matter all together. We shan’t deal with the metaphysical.” (pg. 67) What do you think Chiron means? And, what might that suggest about the author’s worldview? For more on this, see Janie’s thoughts on Percy Jackson in her original review, HERE and Gods and Heroes and Percy Jackson.
- In The Lightning Thief, Percy’s friend Annabeth occasionally takes the Greek gods’ names in vain, exclaiming “Oh my gods!” While this is not true profanity, because the gods are not real, it is still disrespectful and borderline edgy. Ask your child if they’ve noticed any bad language. (To my recollection, there is no direct profanity in the Percy Jackson series though Riordan does include it in The Heroes of Olympus series and the Kane Chronicles.) Interestingly, my 9-year old reader picked up on it, and told me seriously, “She almost says a bad word; it’s not good!” Ask your readers why Annabeth’s exclamation is not appropriate.
- While few people still believe in the Greek gods, there are other religions widely practiced today that still believe in a pluralism of gods. Can you think of one? (Hinduism is a prime example.)
- How does Percy’s father, always distant, uncertain, and slightly perplexed by Percy compare with what we know of our heavenly father? (Romans 8:15-16, Isaiah 43:3-7)
Thanks so much, Hayley! Before you leave, dear reader, we’d love to hear your thoughts on The Lightning Thief! Do you think it is appropriate for your kids? What age would you recommend parents let their kids read and/or watch it?