One of the clearest memories I have of elementary school is my 6th grade teacher reading the story of Persephone, Demeter and Hades to the class from Edith Hamilton’s Mythology. The Greek gods captivated me from the start. After that day in class, I scoured the library for every book even remotely hinting of Greek mythology, so you can imagine my delight when I picked up The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. The gods, alive and well in Manhattan? Monsters and godlings among us? A dangerous quest? Oh yeah!
Percy Jackson isn’t like other kids, a thought that becomes fact when, in the first chapter, he turns his evil Math teacher to dust with a ballpoint-pen-turned-sword. His life goes from bad to worse when he’s sent home from boarding school with an invitation not to return next year. Living with his stepfather, Smelly Gabe, is even worse than boarding school, but life gets even more complicated when Percy and his mother are attacked by The Minotaur while fleeing to the safety of Camp Half Blood, a training ground for demi-gods. Percy soon learns that his real father is the god Poseidon, and he is potentially one of the most powerful “heroes” to come along in years. But all is not well on Mt. Olympus. Someone has stolen Zeus’ thunderbolt, a most powerful weapon, and all fingers point to Percy. To prove his innocence, Percy, along with Daughter-of-Athena Annabeth and a satyr named Grover, embarks on a dangerous quest to the Underworld, where he learns a thing or two about friendship, trust and self-worth.
Action abounds from the first pages of this book. Great characters, great story, superb writing. My only quibble comes from the feeling I kept getting that I was reading a Harry Potter book. We have a boy who never fit in, finding out he has remarkable powers, teaming up with a smart, sassy girl who has equally strong powers and a less talented but very amusing third boy — all sent off on a quest to recover something very powerful that, if in the wrong hands, could mean the end of the world. Throw into the mix a mysterious, powerful, and dangerous evil thing that everyone thought was dead and we have…..Sorceror’s Stone, anyone? Even the typeface used for the chapter headings was the same as in the HP books.
Despite the similarities to HP, The Lightning Thief was a fabulous read, and I can’t see any kid putting it down. Read the first chapter to a class and I guarantee they’ll be in the library looking for this one.