You could say I’m a little late to the game when it comes to reading Rick Riordan‘s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. What can I say? I was all about the A Series of Unfortunate Events books back in my day. Alas, the only reason I’m reading them now is because a friend and I have started a snail mail book club. The book she’s sent me is related to the Percy Jackson books, and she insists that I read the original series first.
To be clear, I love children’s and young adult literature. I believe both Maurice Sendak and John Green have, at different points and under different circumstances, asserted that a good book is a good book no matter the intended age demographic. But I never thought I would be interested in Riordan’s books. If they didn’t appeal to me as a kid, I was certain I wouldn’t like them now.
Turns out, they are so worth reading no matter how old you are.
The Percy Jackson series is considered classic children’s literature now; it’s in a canon that includes Harry Potter, His Dark Materials, and Judy Blume’s books. All these novels have stood the test of time, and a place on the list for these books is well deserved. I honestly expected to have a hard time getting through the book, though. But I found no hint of juvenilia.
The Lightning Thief shows that the best books for children do not contain language and themes specifically designed for children. They contain the same language and themes that are true and realistic for people in all walks of life. Like Harry Potter and Lyra Belacqua, Percy Jackson knows much more of life than he should at the age of twelve. And I haven’t read another children’s book that deals with ADHD and dyslexia in a constructive and creative way. (Though I’m sure there other novels out there that do.)
The thing that compels me the most about children’s books is the depiction of rage in young children. Many books I read when I was the same age as these protagonists did nothing to reflect the burning anger that built inside me because of issues in my family. I found an outlet in music. So it was refreshing to encounter a book that I know many children at that age will relate to. Nevertheless, Riordan manages to characterize this angst with a great sense of humor, which is one of the book’s greatest assets; it never takes itself too seriously.
I’m happy to say that I get to spend my evenings reading books at home, and I have a huge stack to get through, but I plan to make room for Percy’s next adventure in The Sea of Monsters.