Riordan, R. (2005). Percy Jackson & the olympians: The lightning thief. New York, NY: Hyperian Books.
Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson & the Olympians first came to my attention by popular demand of middle school readers, and any time middle school students are crazy about a book, I usually pay attention. During my experience as a student teacher in my first middle school field placement, this book spread through the school like a wildfire; even the teacher had read it! That’s when I knew I had to try it, and I knew immediately why all the kids loved it. I myself couldn’t put the book down. Every page of Riordan’s work presented intricate twists and turns in the modern-day empire of Greek gods, heroes, and half-blood children. At the particular school where I taught, the arrival of this book on the middle school scene coincided perfectly with the language arts unit on Greek mythology; I guess you could say it was fated by the gods. Students came in contact with traditional Greek mythology in ways they never had before.
Main character Percy Jackson seems identifiable enough. He is a normal 12 year old boy just like his peers, or so he thought. When strange, legendary creatures find their way from the pages of his Greek textbooks right into his daily life, he begins to suspect something is up. One day Percy finds himself at the very center of his own legend chasing down monsters and traveling to Mt. Olympus. Did I mention, Mt. Olympus has a new location? What really enthralled many students was the idea of the new Mt. Olympus. The book describes that Mt. Olympus and the blessing of the gods coincides with the rise and fall of empires; wherever the height of civilization is, Mt. Olympus and the whole host of Greek gods moves there with it. The very spark of society and creation follows these gods. In the beginning, Mt. Olympus was indeed located in Greece, but over the centuries it moved to Rome. It continued to move throughout history from Rome to Spain, and France, and England. Finally, the height of civilization arrives in the West, The United States to be exact. Much of the joy in reading this novel comes from hearing how famous sties and landmarks in America are undercover mythological locations; students are thrilled to find out that Mt. Olympus is now the Empire State Building. Don’t believe me? Humans can’t see Mt. Olympus because it is hidden from their eyes by a magical mist. That’ll make you think twice next time you decide to stop for a visit.
Percy Jackson & the Olympians brings young adults closer to Greek mythology than ever before. This novel gives the reader the unique experience of being at the center of a modern-day epic story of gods, heroes, and magical powers. For any student who has struggled to understand Greek mythology before, this novel relates many of the ruling principles of these ancient legends in new and comprehensible ways. This book is a great way to spark in students an interest in traditional Greek mythology; used in conjunction with these traditional stories, this book can be a great resource. I would recommend this novel to any reader, but especially to teachers. A great activity for students to complete following the reading of this book, is to have them create their own modern-day myth. In my experience, this exercise reiterates the purpose, origin, and creation of myths, and students will have fun creating their own stories as well.
So does Percy ever complete his quest to Mt. Olympus? Don’t leave it to the gods, grab a copy and find out for yourself. Read Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief, and you may never look at Greek mythology the same way again.