A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Lightning Thief is the first book by Rick Riordan in a long-running saga that includes five books in the main series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, five books in a spinoff series, The Heroes of Olympus, and five books in another spinoff series, The Trials of Apollo. Once kids get started with The Lightning Thief, they often blow through all three series. They're that popular. The best time for kids to get rolling is fourth or fifth grade. That's when most kids are ready for a main character like Percy Jackson. He's a sardonically funny 12-year-old with dyslexia and ADHD who is not so great with authority. In The Lightning Thief he finds out his absent father is a Greek god (Greek gods still inhabit the modern world and have affairs with mortals) and that he has powers of his own as a demigod. On a quest, his more heroic qualities come through. He's resilient, resourceful, and brave in the face of danger. There's a lot of mythology to keep straight and some tense monster fights. Usually the monsters turn to dust (though one is beheaded as a trophy) and the demigods get magically healed. There's other action violence as well, especially car accidents and exploding vehicles, and talk of animal abuse and spousal abuse. Percy's mom goes to the Underworld and is heavily mourned. Kids will learn a lot about the Greek idea of the Underworld. They will also have regular references to products, especially Coke and Oreos.
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What's the story?
In THE LIGHTNING THIEF, strange things keep happening around Percy Jackson. His boarding school teacher turns into a monster, attacks him on a field trip, then disappears, and no one remembers she was ever there. Who's Mrs. Dodds? they all ask. Then he overhears his best friend Grover talking to his favorite teacher about the danger he's in and how they need to protect him. When Percy heads home to Manhattan for the summer holidays, he and his mom decide to take a trip to the coast. A terrible storm kicks up in the night and his friend Grover appears, banging on the door, telling Percy he has to flee. His mom drives them to a camp she knows, one Percy's absent father told her about, but not fast enough. A Minotaur attacks and tries to tear the car and Percy to shreds. Percy wakes up much later in the strangest place he's ever been: Camp Half-Blood. It's where kids like him can train and be safe from monsters. That's when Percy learns his father was a Greek god, and Greek gods still exist and hold sway in the world. And right now the gods are warring and Percy's very existence may be partly to blame.
Is it any good?
This high-adventure series start imagines Greek mythology in the modern world through the eyes of a sardonically funny 12-year-old who many kids know and love. Percy Jackson's origin story and first quest as a hero combine in The Lightning Thief. He goes from the worst kid in a school for delinquents with the worst -- and smelliest -- stepdad ever to full-fledged hero in less than 400 pages, and readers will be rooting for him the whole way. While his friend Annabeth has the brains, it's Percy's wits that get them out of the most scrapes -- and that really handy ability to breathe and heal under water. Some of his ploys seem beyond the maturity of a 12-year-old to conjure -- like in the water park, and in Hades' kingdom, and in the waterbed store -- but kids probably won't notice.
The plot is more complex than you'd expect for a humor-tinged fantasy. It's hard to decide who the enemy really is and who he or she is working for until the very end. And some of the plotting is meant to build the five-part series, so there's still much readers don't know. Kids who read on will be rewarded with a series that is consistently well written and entertaining.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Percy's learning differences in The Lightning Thief. How does his dyslexia and ADHD come in handy as a demigod? For kids with dyslexia and/or ADHD, how often do you see yourself in main characters? Did author Rick Riordan describe what it's like to be dyslexic or have ADHD well? How are your experiences different?
What happened to kids at the Lotus Casino? Do you ever lose track of time when you're playing video games and having fun? How do they try to lure Percy back to the casino? Does gaming ever feel as addictive to you?
Will you read more in this series? And the follow-up series? Why do you think Percy Jackson books are so popular?
- Author: Rick Riordan
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Superheroes, Adventures, Friendship, Middle School, Misfits and Underdogs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires, Ocean Creatures
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Hyperion Books for Children
- Publication date: September 11, 2005
- Number of pages: 377
- Last updated: July 28, 2020
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