A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Many references to characters in Greek mythology and their stories: the major gods, the Titans, Echidna, Procrustes, chimeras, Arachne, Chiran, Charon, Cerberus, and more. Also shows the Greek vision of the Underworld -- the entrance is in Hollywood, but the layout below is the same, with Elysium, the Fields of Asphodel, and the Fields of Punishment. Kids can follow the quest's cross-country trip on a map with stops in St. Louis, Denver, Las Vegas, and Venice Beach. Some descriptions of what it's like to have dyslexia and ADHD.
Teamwork and friendship. Resilience, resourcefulness, and bravery in the face of danger. A reminder to not let video games take over your lives when Percy visits the Lotus Casino.
Positive Role Models
Percy starts out as a failing student who's been kicked out of many schools for being disruptive. He has dyslexia and ADHD and uses his differences to justify his behavior -- even admitting to getting a Tom Sawyer essay for school off the Internet once. When he has a chance to prove himself, though, and find his place among demigods (kids with one Greek god parent), he's brave, resilient, and incredibly resourceful -- he tricks his way out of some sticky situations with vengeful Greek characters. He also adores his mom and would do anything for her.
Violence & Scariness
Fights with monsters get hairy, with some injuries, but when the monsters die they fade to dust (except for one, who's beheaded) and when demigods get hurt, they can be magically healed. Percy's mom goes to the Underworld and is heavily mourned. Bullying at Camp Half-Blood involving toilets ends badly for the bullies. A car wreck, an exploding bus and police cars, and sword fighting. Talk of domestic abuse and a son realizing his mother had been abused. A ride in a truck with caged animals who have been neglected and abused. Poisoned insect bites and torture by being stretched on beds. Much imagery and discussion of death in the Underworld with talk of how people died and how they lived and where they would end up as a result.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Much talk of gods having affairs with mortals and their resulting kids, the demigods. Plus, talk of Ares and Aphrodite's affair and wood nymphs having a lot of practice running from lovesick gods.
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Products & Purchases
Coke, Diet Coke, Barbara Walters, Oreos, Camaro, the Hilary Duff song "So Yesterday."
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Percy's stepfather smokes cigars and drinks lots of beer. A taxi driver also smokes a cigar and a surfer mentions mushrooms.
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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.
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.
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