The Last Olympian

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Percy Jackson and The Last Olympian

by Rick Riordan

AR Level 4.3, 13 points

I finally finished the series!!!  Woo hoo!  It was my summer goal to finish the series.

This is the last book in the series.  It follows Percy as he finds out if the prophecy refers to him.  I won’t give it away, but this book has the most action of the entire series.  The entire book is one giant climax.  We learn secrets, meet tons of new monsters and gods/goddesses, and we find out how the Rachel-Percy-Annabeth love triangle ends up.  This final installment will keep you going, and you won’t want to put it down until you just finish it already!  At least that’s how I felt.

What I liked about this book series is that I learned so much more about Greek mythology than I would have learned from just studying the family tree.  I like Greek mythology, but I could never keep all of them straight.  Titans, Olympians, minor gods, monsters, heroes, etc.  Now, I could explain how at least 20 of them are related without even looking.  I found myself google imaging them, as well as looking up the pronunciation of  characters I’d never heard of.  It was exciting for me as a learner, and I remember being schooled by my sixth graders at the beginning of last year when we started to learn more about Greek mythology.  The Percy Jackson fans basically told me how to draw the family tree.  So if you want to be smarter than your sixth graders, read this series before teaching your Greek mythology unit.

What I didn’t like about this series is that I sometimes didn’t know what was Greek mythology and what was Rick Riordan.  He gave some of these people such distinct personalities.  Was Aphrodite really that vain?  Did Ares really go around picking fights?  Did Poseidon really wear Hawaiian shirts?  I’d say the line between fact and fiction (fiction and fiction?) was hard for me, but on the other hand, VERY appealing to sixth graders.

If you’re looking for some light reading that will keep you engaged and teach you a thing or 20 about Greek mythology, or if you’re a boy who hates to read, this is your series.  I was very pessimistic and didn’t think I’d enjoy anything about it, and I was hooked.

Book 14 of 40 (year 2)

The Battle of the Labyrinth

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Percy Jackson and The Battle of the Labyrinth (paperback)

by Rick Riordan

AR Level 4.1, 12 points

This is book 4 of the Percy Jackson series.  Like in every book of the series so far, Percy faces a monster at the beginning and flees in a traumatic and urgent fashion.  The difference is (and we will get to this again later), he was going to a school orientation set up by Paul Blofis and then meeting Annabeth for a pseudo-date.  So he is confronted by an empouri masquerading as a cheerleader, then heads out in a hurry, with the assistance of Rachel Elizabeth Dare, a mortal he met in book 3.  The story follows their continued battle against the rise of Kronos and his “helpers” (monsters, mortals, half-bloods, etc.).  Annabeth leads the quest through Daedalus’s labyrinth to find Daedalus and stop Luke from leading Kronos’s army to destroy the camp.  We find out what happens to Nico and Bianca, we meet Pan and Grover’s his girlfriend, and my favorite part… Percy Jackson proves himself to be a normal teenage boy with typical feelings for the ladies.  Calm down, it was totally rated PG… 13 (brief kissing involved).

What I liked about this book was, of course, how Percy’s relationship with Annabeth heated up a bit.  Throw in a mildly attractive Rachel Elizabeth Dare and Calypso and you’ve got yourself some really tough situations for an awkward young man.  What got me really excited, though, was Poseidon showing up to Percy’s birthday party.  Totally unexpected.  There are a lot of predictable aspects to this story, but that threw me, and I actually really appreciated more facetime with the gods, especially Percy’s dad.

What I didn’t like about this book… there isn’t a whole lot to say that I haven’t already mentioned in my other posts.  It isn’t a challenging novel.  It doesn’t get me as emotional as Harry Potter did.  However, I can see how it would attract students, especially non-readers (or readers who hate reading).  It isn’t my favorite series, but I am looking forward to the last installment.  Rick Riordan is an entertaining writer who knows how to write for kids.

Book 13 of 40 (year 2)

The Sea of Monsters

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The Sea of Monsters (paperback)

by Rick Riordan

AR Level 4.6, 9 points

The Sea of Monsters is the second book in the Percy Jackson series.  It starts, once again, in a school, and the action begins right off the bat.  Percy is faced with a dangerous situation that he must find his way out of, and he is found at fault and kicked out of school.  I am assuming this is a pattern I’ll see throughout the series.  He finds trouble at Half-Blood Hill, and must go on a dangerous quest with his friends in order to save his camp and the world.  This time, he is searching for the Golden Fleece in the Sea of Monsters with a cyclops named Tyson and his gal pal Rachel Greene Annabeth.  A former-friend-turned-enemy makes an appearance, and Percy keeps his regular quick-wit and smart-ass responses.  He and his friends return from the quest and all appears fine back at the camp, but there’s a little twist in the last chapter that will lead into the third book, The Titan’s Curse.

What I liked about this book… this is actually a conversation I had with my favorite Barnes & Noble employee (I don’t remember her name, but I see her nearly every time I’m there, and she impresses me with her knowledge of children’s literature, something most adults don’t read or give enough respect to).  So we were talking about the difference between this series and the Heroes of Olympus series.  They are two different series, both based on Greek Mythology, and Percy appears in the third book of the latter series.  In between these two series is the Kane Chronicles series, which is about Egyptian mythology, but most people skip it and stick with Greek mythology.  I came to learn that B&N Friend hasn’t read any of the Rick Riordan books, which I totally get, because I generally don’t read books (or watch movies) when there’s lot of hype.  That’s why it took me so long to get into Harry Potter.  BUT she LOVED Harry Potter, and this series is basically HP for Dummies or People Who Don’t Want Dark Books But Like Archetypal Characters and Plots.  So many parallels between the two!  That’s a whole other blog post that I’m sure has been done a million times.  I can probably google it and find nice spreadsheets or input charts comparing the two series, down to the syllabication (Har-ry Pot-ter vs. Per-cy Jack-son).

So anyway, if you like smart ass dialogue that will make you giggle (a little, not Lemony Snicket-giggle level), if you like archetypal characters and story plots, if you like Greek mythology… this is your series.  It’s action-packed and you’ll be wishing you had a family tree or picture dictionary of the mythological characters.

What I didn’t like about this book is that it isn’t intellectually or linguistically challenging.  It is written at a fourth grade level, and there’s nothing that makes you think too hard.  It’s relatively predictable since you could probably use the same graphic organizer or plot diagram for each book.  This is a series I was not anxious to pick up, and I’m also not dying to finish it.  I am alternating, mixing things up, and keeping my options open when it comes to other books.  It is worth the read, in my opinion, but I am not staying up 24 hours to finish all of the books, and I wouldn’t camp out for the next book in the series.  You’ll learn a lot about mythology and you’ll be rooting for our hero the whole way through.

Book 9 of 40 (year 2)

The Lightning Thief

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Percy Jackson and the Olympians:  The Lightning Thief (paperback)

by Rick Riordan

AR Level 4.7, 13 points

I have learned a similar lesson repeatedly over the last year:  do not judge a book by it’s cover.  I was not planning on reading this series.  Yes, I love Greek mythology.  And yes, Harry Potter turned out to be an epic series, even though magic wasn’t really my “thing.”  I assumed Divergent was overrated, and clearly, it was something I enjoyed.  I should just stop saying no to these books, and assume they’re popular for a reason!

So I decided to read The Lightning Thief, because I’m on an Engage NY kick.  I am going to attempt to teach using this newish curriculum next year, and I find it’s always best to read the books BEFORE reading them with the class.  Otherwise, I find myself scrambling and asking my students, “What do YOU think?” or telling them to “Find evidence in the book to prove your answer” because I have no idea, since I came in unprepared.  I kind of feel like that’s how my entire school year has been, my first official year teaching just common core.  But that’s a different story.

This is the story of Percy Jackson, a sixth grade boy with ADHD and dyslexia.  He attends a boarding school for delinquents.  We learn quickly that he is different and sees creatures that do not exist in the mortal world.  He has a best friend and a supportive teacher, and he discovers they are “in” on a secret that involves him.  I will not spoil the story, but Percy Jackson learns who he is because of who his mysterious father is.  He goes on a hero’s quest to save mankind from World War III.  The story is somewhat predictable (probably because it’s written at a 4.7 grade level), but it is engaging nonetheless.

What I liked loved about this book was that Greek mythology slapped you in the face at least 3 times per page.  I mean this in the most pleasant way possible.  I love Greek mythology and come with some background, but a person doesn’t need to know much at all in the beginning to come out an expert.  There were so many descriptions, from Hades’s clothing to the weapons of the gods, that I wondered what was really from mythology and what was from Riordan’s imagination!  Now I understand why my bookworms schooled ME when I taught a “Greek Mythology: 101” unit back in August.

What I didn’t like about this book was that it was a little too predictable.  At times, I forgot if I was reading Percy Jackson or Harry Potter.  The plot lines are way too similar.  I am not sure if that is such a bad thing, but I am not amped to jump into book 2 today.  I will, however, start book 2 later this week, because it is Spring Break, after all!

Book 44 of 52