Monday, December 1, 2008

The Lightning Thief - Genre 6 Fantasy, Fiction, & YA

Bibliography
Riordan, Rick. 2005. The lightning thief. Percy Jackson and the Olympians Book 1. New York: Hyperion Books for Children. ISBN 0786856297
Plot Summary
A troubled boy named Percy Jackson floats from school to school fighting ADHA, dyslexia, and bullies until he comes to Yancy Academy. Here, he finally finds a good friend named Grover and a teacher who believes in him. His troubled life seemed fairly normal until the day he accidentally vaporized his pre-algebra teacher. This event started Percy on a voyage of discovery he never could have imagined. He learns that Grover is actually a satyr, that his favorite teacher is actually a centaur, and Mount Olympus is located on the 600th floor of the Empire State Building. He also learns that he himself is the son of a god and spends his summer at Half Blood Hill - a camp for children of gods and other mythological beings. The camp is a safe place for the demigods to train against the monsters who will try to kill them in the mortal world.

Not long after Percy's arrival, he discovers that he, Grover, and Athena's daughter Annabeth must go on a quest to find and return Zeus' master lightning bolt and Hades' helm to prevent a war between the gods which would be devastating for mankind. The three successfully complete the quest and prevent the war but in the process discover a traitor at the camp. Though the traitor leaves, the reader knows he won't be gone forever which, along with Percy's decision to leave the safety of the camp for the school year, opens the story up to a series of novels.
Critical Analysis
With chapter titles like "I Become Supreme Lord of the Bathroom" and lines like, "The guy on the bike would've made pro wrestlers run for Mama," one can't help but find the book humorous. Add that to battles to the death with various mythological monsters and the result is a captivating tale full of mystery, adventure, and fun.

The author seamlessly fuses ancient Greek mythology with modern life so that even if you know or remember very little about the Greek gods, you can still understand the story of Percy Jackson. While the adventures of Percy and his friends are certainly the stuff of fantasy, the author successfully leads the reader to suspend reality in favor of relating to the familar. The fight with the Minotaur is not as important as the feeling of loss and despair when Percy's mom disappears. The quest for Zeus' master lightning bolt becomes secondary to Percy's journey into becoming a good friend and hero. Ultimately, the reader can relate to the story - even those elements most fanciful. Afterall, is it really so hard to believe that L.A. is the gateway to the Underworld?
Professional Review Excerpts
from School Library Journal At the outset of this fast-paced tale by Rick Riordan (Hyperion/Miramax, 2005), it would seem that Percy Jackson is just another New York kid diagnosed with ADHD, who has good intentions, a nasty stepfather, and a long line of schools that have rejected him. The revelation of his status as half-blood offspring of one of the Greek gods is nicely packaged, and it's easy to believe that Mount Olympus, in modern times, has migrated to the 600th floor of the Empire State Building (the center of Western civilization) while the door to Hades can be found at DOA Recording Studio, somewhere in LA. With his new friends, a disguised satyr, and the half-blood daughter of Athena, Percy sets out across the country to rectify a feud between Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon. Along the way they must cope with the Furies, Medusa, motorcycle thug Aires, and various other immortals. Although some of Jesse Bernstein's accents fail (the monster from Georgia, for instance, has no Southern trace in her voice), he does a fine job of keeping the main characters' tones and accents distinguishable. He convincingly portrays Percy, voicing just the right amount of prepubescent confusion, ironic wit, and the ebbing and waning of concern for himself and those around him. Mythology fans will love this take and kids who haven't been inculcated with the Classical canon will learn aspects of it here while having no trouble following a rollicking good–and modern–adventure.

from Booklist The escapades of the Greek gods and heroes get a fresh spin in the first book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, about a contemporary 12-year-old New Yorker who learns he's a demigod. Perseus, aka Percy Jackson, thinks he has big problems. His father left before he was born, he's been kicked out of six schools in six years, he's dyslexic, and he has ADHD. What a surprise when he finds out that that's only the tip of the iceberg: he vaporizes his pre-algebra teacher, learns his best friend is a satyr, and is almost killed by a minotaur before his mother manages to get him to the safety of Camp Half-Blood--where he discovers that Poseidon is his father. But that's a problem, too. Poseidon has been accused of stealing Zeus' lightning bolt, and unless Percy can return the bolt, humankind is doomed. Riordan's fast-paced adventure is fresh, dangerous, and funny. Percy is an appealing, but reluctant hero, the modernized gods are hilarious, and the parallels to Harry Potter are frequent and obvious. Because Riordan is faithful to the original myths, librarians should be prepared for a rush of readers wanting the classic stories.
Connections
~ The easiest connection to make with this book is that of Greek Mythology. This book would be a great way to introduce students to the Greek gods and their stories.
~ Another great use of this book is in teaching the use of voice in writing. Fourth graders taking the TAKS writing test could learn a lot about how to give their characters personality and how the little details and comments can make a story more interesting.

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