Monster spray? Check.
Tin cans? Check.
Magical Yankees hat? Check.
Reed pipes? Check.
Oh, excuse us. We didn't see you there. You see, we're getting ready to read The Lightning Thief, and we need to make sure we have our supplies. Our narrator, Percy Jackson, tells us on page one that this book reveals dangerous secrets. We want to be prepared for whatever comes our way.
We won't tell you what these secrets are. All we'll tell you is that Percy is twelve years old, he's from Queens, NY, he has dyslexia and attention deficit disorder, and he has been kicked out of six different schools over the past six years. Oh, and Percy is a demi-god. Yeah, that's right. He's half-human, half-god. Ancient Greek mythology is not mythology – it's the real thing. The Greek gods still exist. This is the story of how Percy finds out about his demi-god-ness and of how he saves the world from a huge and horrible war.
The Lightning Thief is the first in a series of five books called Percy Jackson and the Olympians by author Rick Riordan. The book was published on June 28, 2005, and over 1.2 million copies of the book have already been sold. The Lightning Thief has been on the New York Times Bestseller List for children's books for over 120 weeks and counting. The Lightning Thief has even been made into a feature film.
Rick Riordan is a novelist and teacher. He taught English to middle-schoolers for years, teaching his students all about the Greek myths (ahem, the Greek stories). Riordan is also a dad, and he has a son who was diagnosed with dyslexia and attention deficit disorder. When his son was in the fourth grade, he studied Ancient Greek culture and stories in school. Every night, he asked his dad to tell him stories about the Greek gods. His dad knew a whole lot about the gods, you see. And when Rick Riordan ran out of stories to tell, his son asked him to invent a story about the gods. Over the course of three days, Rick came up with Percy Jackson and the story of The Lightning Thief. After hearing this story, Rick's son knew it was so great his dad needed to make it into a book. Thank goodness, Rick Riordan took his son's advice.
Normal. One of the most important words in the English language – almost all of us want to be it. We want to "fit in" rather than stick out. We don't want to be "different." But, do we even know what being normal means? Who defines what is "normal"?
Percy Jackson is the polar opposite of normal. He accidentally causes trouble wherever he goes, he is dyslexic, has attention deficit disorder, and has a D-average in school. His father was never around and his mother scrambles to make ends meet to support him and his rotten stepdad. Nobody (except his mom) believes he will amount to much in life.
But this story proves just how bad the definition of "normal" can be at predicting how successful someone like Percy will be or can be. With a slight adjustment of our perspective and of our understanding of this word, we readers realize that Percy's greatest weaknesses are his greatest strengths. While being dyslexic and having attention deficit disorder means that Percy has a hard time reading books and doing well in school, it does mean that he has a gift for reading and understanding Ancient Greek and has great battle reflexes. Maybe normal doesn't have it quite right after all?
Whether you, like Percy, believe that the Greek gods are still around or whether you consider their stories to be mythology, this story has something to offer. It helps us understand that there is always more than one way of seeing and of making sense of the world. Sometimes being an outsider means that you have gifts that those around you don't yet fully understand or notice.