Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Lightning Thief

One of my favorite middle grade titles of the year is Rick Riordan's The Lightning Thief.

Two things I must get out of the way before discussing this book. 1) I don't think Riordan is related to my former mayor, but the book still makes me think of Los Angeles (you enter the Underworld, coincidently, in Los Angeles as well); 2) my library classified this one as young adult, but if you have a smart 8-12 year-old reader who needs a good read, they'll love this book.

Percy Jackson has had a hard time in school. ADHD, weird teachers, bullies--the works. After another failed school year, Percy takes a trip with his mother and finds out he's to go to a special camp, a camp his father, the father he's never known, wants him to attend. On the way to the camp, a Minotaur attacks and Percy is victorious, but loses his mother. Percy arrives at Camp Half-Blood alive, but battered.

In time, Percy learns he is a half-blood--in other words, a half-god. Greek god, that is. I won't spoil the surprise and tell you who Percy's father is, but I was thrilled when I found out. Before long there is a prophecy from the Oracle and Percy is sent on a mission with Annabeth (Athena's daughter) and a satyr named Grover.

Their mission takes them across the country. Along the way they meet all sorts of mythological creatures, scary gods like Ares and Hades, and have to use their wits, some magic, and a good deal of luck to achieve the goal they don't even fully understand. The Lightning Thief is action packed, well written, and tons of fun. Percy reaches Mt. Olympus (600th floor of the Empire State Building) in great style.

Perhaps the best part of The Lightning Thief is that a sequel is on the way. Percy, who pleased Hades enough to earn the return of his mother, returns home for the summer instead of staying at Camp Half-Blood. And the prophecy--"You shall go west, and face the god who has turned, You shall find what was stolen, and see it safe returned. You shall be betrayed by one who calls you a friend. And you shall fail to save what matters most in the end"--is, truly, only 3/4s fulfilled.