Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Percy Jackson and the Olympians

I adore these books. I started reading the first one during book fair last year, and could not put them down until I had read all of them. Then, I frothed at the mouth until the next one came out. Now, I am anxiously awaiting the fifth (and unfortunately, supposedly last) book in the series to come out in May. I bought them for Tony’s birthday that year, and he read them almost as fast as I did, and still occasionally bugs me about not having the last one yet. As if I could do anything about it. Then, I bought the first three for Gabriel’s 11th birthday, and he made his mom go to the store right away to buy the next one, because he needed it right then. He even convinced his younger brothers to act it out with him and told them they were demi-gods.

Percy Jackson has always had bad luck in school. He’s never been to the same school two years in a row. In fact, he usually doesn’t make it all the way through the school year without getting kicked out for some sort of “incident”. It’s not that he’s bad – bad things just seem to happen while he’s around. And then he finds out it’s not his fault. His dad is a god. In fact, his dad is… oh wait, that would ruin half the first book. So he gets to go to a special summer camp, where he is taught all about being a demi-god, and has to go on a quest to return a stolen lightning bolt. In his many adventures he encounters pretty much every fantastical monster you could ever find in mythology. Very scary (without actually being scary), very dangerous, and very funny.

These books have it all – mythological creatures, action, adventure, random little tidbits of facts, humor. They are especially great for those reluctant boy readers because they get you hooked so fast – within the first chapter. They bring ancient mythology to life in a very vivid and unforgettable way.

Practical Uses:

Mythology: Gods and Monsters Made Modern
No specific ideas, but this series has a ton of mythological history in it. It would be great as a fun side note in any mythology study or even as fun reading to go along with Greek history studies.

Geography: Famous Places, Twice Over
This series mentions many, many national landmarks and attractions. The empire state building is pivotal to the story, the Hoover dam hosts a frightful battle, etc.
Have students find locations mentioned in the story on a map of the United States. Then have them mark those locations on a map outline. You could have one printed for them, or have them draw their own. They should mark the real landmark or city. Some of these locations are doubly famous in the books – the Empire State building is also Mt. Olympus. So of course, if the site has a mythological significance, they should write that in also. A fun way to incorporate art would be to have them draw a symbol representing what happened at that location in the story. This would also free up space on your map – they could just draw the symbol on the map, then draw the symbol on notebook paper and write a quick synopsis of the scene next to it. When they were finished, the notebook paper could be their key to the map.

Family Tree
Have students draw their own family tree, and compare it to a drawing (either their own or one you find in a book) of the family tree of the Greek gods and goddesses. They don’t exactly split the same way…

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