Percy Jackson & The Olympians (Series) - Rick Riordan
Too often, this series is marketed as a "So you liked Harry Potter? You'll like this!". While for some children (or anyone really!), that may be true, I think it does a disservice to the world that Riordan has created. And that's coming from one of the biggest Potter fans you'll ever meet!
Firstly I'll have to admit, I've listened to all of Riordan's books through Audible. I do probably half of my personal reading this way, it's just so easy when you otherwise don't have time to read! The Percy Jackson & The Olympians series is 5 books long. However, Riordan has multiple series that follow this one. Immediately following is The Heroes of Olympus series. Also connected to this world is the Magnus Chase series, and The Trials of Apollo. I've enjoyed all of them (that are published so far), but here are all the reasons I feel in love with the world that Percy Jackson began.
I think the 'Harry Potter' connection comes from the introduction of the story - a boy who thinks he's just an ordinary kid that strange things happen to, finds out he's special and heads off to 'school' with others like him. Percy's school is Camp Half-Blood, for children who have one of the Greek Gods as a parent.
But I think Percy Jackson steers away from the HP narrative by utilising a whole cast of gifted and talented kids - there's much less of a 'chosen one' plot throughout the five books. While we do focus on Percy in particular, Annabeth, Grover and a host of other half-bloods and creatures have their own agency and abilities that ensure that they aren't just side-kicks to Percy's missions.
Rating: As a series, a 5 out of 5 stars. As soon as I finished the first one, I ordered the second book. And so on an so forth until I'd read 10 Riordan books in just a few months.
Age suggestions: 9+ depending on interests and ability.
Ability range: These books are not short, and because they're based on Greek Mythology, have a lot of vocabulary and concepts that may be unfamiliar. I know Grade 4 students (confident readers) who have loved it, all the way up to high school and beyond.
Content notes: All the half-blood children have been raised by single parents or with step-parents. There are some less than happy homes, as well as suggestions of abusive step parents. Later in the series there's some boyfriend/girlfriend stuff happening (with both male/female and male/male crushes), and even some non-explicit kissing. There are plenty of battle scenes, but nothing overly confronting. The series as a whole offers a lot of representation of characters that are not always recognised in children's literature, in an accessible and non-confronting way for those children who may have had no other exposure to such characters. Riordan does this well throughout all of his series, which is another thing that perhaps Harry Potter misses.
It's not worth mentioning the movie - and anyone who has actually read the books would agree with me.
If you've got kids busting to read about fantastical adventures, get them reading this! It'd also be a great read-aloud novel for a class or at home together.
Start with The Lightening Thief!
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