The Lightning Thief: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1 Book Poster Image

The Lightning Thief: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1

Modernized Greek myths meet fast-paced adventure.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

What parents need to know

Educational value

Incorporates many references to Greek gods and myths.

Positive messages

Strong examples of friendship and loyalty. Includes a vision of the afterlife that mixes Greek/Roman myth with modern. Camp for "Half-Bloods" includes all kids with an absent parent because their non-god parent raised them, so these kids have issues with absent parents and are often looking for parental/god approval.

Positive role models

Percy has dyslexia and ADHD and is a horrible student who has been kicked out of many schools in the past. He goes from that to hero in the course of the book. Though he talks back to authority figures, he's always trying to do the right thing and is incredibly loyal and protective of his new friends -- and he adores his mom. Grover is an avid environmentalist. On the negative side, Percy's stepdad is a lout and there's a mention that he hits Percy's mom.


Fantasy violence, swordplay, monsters. Percy's mom is apparently killed in front of him. His stepfather has hit her in the past.


Gods have affairs with mortal women and men, resulting in "half-blood" children. A mild tween crush.

Not applicable

Several products, restaurants, and celebrities mentioned: Coke, Diet Coke, Barbara Walters, the Hilary Duff song "So Yesterday." Plus Percy loves junk food.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Percy's stepfather smokes cigars and drinks beer to excess.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that the premise of the story is that Greek gods have affairs with mortal women and the resulting children are demigods. You'll find fantasy violence including swordplay and monsters. Percy's mom is apparently killed in front of him and his stepfather, who drinks to excess, used to hit his mother. There's also a trip to the afterlife, ruled by Hades, with its entrance in Hollywood. Audiobook version read by Jesse Bernstein.

What's the story?

Percy Jackson, dyslexic and hotheaded, has been kicked out of yet another school. But stranger things are happening around him, and soon he finds himself at Camp Half-Blood, a refuge and training ground for children of the Greek gods, who are still around and causing trouble for humans. He discovers that his dyslexia is caused by his brain being hardwired for Greek, and his hotheadedness is because, well, he's a hero. All too soon Percy discovers which god is his father, and that he's a pawn in a titanic battle between the gods that may ignite World War III. Accompanied by a daughter of Athena and a young satyr, Percy is sent to retrieve Zeus' lightning bolt from Hades, who supposedly stole it. But things are even more complicated than he and the gods imagined, and there are dangerous plots afoot.

Is it any good?


Written from Percy's point of view in choppy, attitude-filled prose, there are two levels of fun in THE LIGHTING THIEF. One is the fast-paced quest of a young hero and his friends to save the world. The characters aren't emotionally involving, but nonetheless this part is exciting, suspenseful, and very satisfying. Children who don't know much mythology can still enjoy the breakneck adventure on its own.

For those who do know Greek myths, or those inspired to learn about them, there's another level of fun here -- laughing at the wicked ways the author has updated the gods and monsters for the 21st century. Ares is a cross between a Hell's Angel and a professional wrestler, a math teacher is a harpy in disguise, and demigods can communicate by IMing -- Iris messaging (you'll have to read it to get the details on that one). A fun read for anyone, and a great read-aloud for a class studying mythology.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the references to Greek gods and myths. Finding and identifying the references can be a fun parent/child game.

  • Issues such as urban sprawl and environmental destruction are also raised. Why are they so important to Grover and his kind especially?

Book details

Author:Rick Riordan
Topics:Magic and fantasy
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Hyperion Books for Children
Publication date:September 11, 2005
Number of pages:377

This review of The Lightning Thief: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1 was written by

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Parent of a 7 and 9 year old Written byslrohrer July 17, 2010

Be prepared to discuss morals with your child.

My son wanted to read it in 3rd grade, but I read it first. I feel that there's too much content that isn't age appropriate until at least 5th grade. For instance: Gods having "affairs" with mortals. There are a lot of moral issues imbedded into this book that I think needs to be discussed after the child has read this book, so parents should be prepared to discuss. This may even be a great choice for a parent/child book club. Especially if you are a Christian parent - you'll want to be prepared to discuss the fantasy/mythology of the Greek Gods. I think my son will LOVE the book, but he won't have the chance to love it until he gets to 5th grade.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Great messages
Parent of a 12 year old Written byTsion April 9, 2008

A fun mix of modern and myth...A Must-Read!

I recently saw I list of 13 books every kid should read before turning 13. THE LIGHTNING THIEF was high on that list. The book tells the story of Perseus (Percy) Jackson, a kid who lives with his single mother and is unsure of his dad's identity. After a creepy math teacher transforms into a monster and tries to eat him, Percy's friend Grover (who's really a satyr) takes him to Camp Half-Blood, where Percy learns that the Greek Gods really do exist, and they still have children with mortals. That is what the camp is for. Percy is one of those children. His father is Posiedon, God of the Seas, and Percy has some control over water. But soon he must go on a quest with Grover and Annabeth, daughter of Athena, to take back Zeus's stolen lightning bolt and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods. The book is funny and witty, effortlessly matching old mythology and tradition with modern culture in a way that makes the book engrossing and unpredictable. There is no sex, only talk of gods having affairs with mortals, and quite a bit of married gods having affairs with other gods. Violence is the biggest issue, whether it's slapstick or intense. Sword-fights, explosions, creepy monsters, ect. None of it's graphic and most is presented in a comical fashion. Your kids will love this book and you will too. Highly recommended. (P.S. Don't be worried that CommonSense doesn't have reviews for books 2 and 3. They're no worse than this one).
Parent of a 2, 4, 6, and 8 year old Written byjennwhitmer October 14, 2010
I enjoyed the story, and it's action packed. The biggest problem is with the way the demigods were conceived. There is a lot of talk about the gods sleeping with humans to make the demigods. Until your child is ready to understand babies out of marriage, this book isn't for him.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Educational value