I try to keep up with what my kids are reading, and they’ve both enjoyed The Lightning Thief and the rest of the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. (They also enjoyed the recent movie, but were quick to point out many, many liberties the movie-makers took with the story — to the point where it’s almost a different story).
Parallels have been drawn between Percy Jackson and Harry Potter, but really, both are just riffing on an ancient theme — a pre-adolescent boy who, for various reasons, isn’t happy and doesn’t fit in, suddenly finds out he’s someone special. In Percy’s case, he’s the son of the god Poseidon, and he finds himself suddenly living in a world where gods and demigods, satyrs and others mythological creatures, are real — and often deadly.
What makes Riordan’s spin on a tried-and-true formula fun and interesting is, first, the humour in the books, which is great, and secondly, the fact that reading these books will give your kids a good basic knowledge of Greek mythology, which they probably aren’t getting in school these days. I always tell my students what a first-year MUN English prof told me: if you want to understand English literature, you need a working knowledge of two things: the Bible and the Greek myths. We’re teaching less and less of both these days (and as a literature teacher, I can assure you it shows — hard to catch allusions if you’ve never been exposed to the original). The Percy Jackson books give young readers a nice intro to the basic myths of Western Civilization while keeping a good, page-turning story rolling right along.