The Lightning Thief

The Lightning Thief
by Rick Riordan

Publishing Information: Miramax: New York, 2006
ISBN: 0786282258 / 0786838655 (PB)
Pages: 400 p.
Ages: 9 - 14

The escapades of the Greek gods and heroes get a fresh spin in the first book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, about a contemporary 12-year-old New Yorker who learns he's a demigod. Perseus, aka Percy Jackson, thinks he has big problems. His father left before he was born, he's been kicked out of six schools in six years, he's dyslexic, and he has ADHD. What a surprise when he finds out that that's only the tip of the iceberg: he vaporizes his pre-algebra teacher, learns his best friend is a satyr, and is almost killed by a minotaur before his mother manages to get him to the safety of Camp Half-Blood--where he discovers that Poseidon is his father. But that's a problem, too. Poseidon has been accused of stealing Zeus' lightning bolt, and unless Percy can return the bolt, humankind is doomed. Riordan's fast-paced adventure is fresh, dangerous, and funny. Percy is an appealing, but reluctant hero, the modernized gods are hilarious, and the parallels to Harry Potter are frequent and obvious. Because Riordan is faithful to the original myths, librarians should be prepared for a rush of readers wanting the classic stories. Chris Sherman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Book Talk:
Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can't seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse -- Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him. Percy's mom decides it's time that he knew the truth about where he came from. She sends Percy to Camp Half-Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island), where he learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, God of the Sea. Soon a mystery unfolds and together with his friends -- one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena -- Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods. But to succeed on his quest, Percy will have to unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves.

Subject Headings & Major Themes:

Greek Mythology
Summer Camp
Western Civilization

Awards & Reviews:
ALA Notable Book, 2005
Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Books, 2005

Child Magazine Best Books, 2005
School Library Journal Best Books - Children, 2006
School Library Journal Best Books - Easy, 2006
National Councile for Teachers of English - Notable Children's Book, 2006
New York Times Notable Books - Children, 2005
New York Times Notable Books - Young Adults, 2005
VOYA Top Shelf Fiction List, 2005

YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, 2006

"A fantastic blend of myth and modern."
--Booklist, September 15, 2005, p. 59

" Riordan impresses with crisp, quick language and superhero style action and he amusingly recasts the Greek gods and demigods as they might live in modern-day America. [The Lightning Thief] reveals how an ordinary boy can learn to believe he's special and reach unexpected heights of heroism."
--Horn Book

"Packed with humorous allusions to Greek mythology and clever updates of the old stories, along with rip-snorting action sequences, the book really shines in the depiction of Percy -- wry, impatient, academically hopeless, with a cut-to-the-chase bluntness one would wish for in a hero of old."
--Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2005 (Starred Review)

"One need not be an expert in Greek mythology to enjoy Percy's journey. The narrator's voice lends a refreshing air of realism to this riotously paced quest tale of heroism that questions the realities of our world, family, friendship and loyalty."
New York Time Book Review

Publishers Weekly, July 18, 2005, p. 207

"Perfectly paced, with electrifying moments chasing each other like heartbeats."
--School Library Journal, August 2005, p. 134 (Starred Review)

Discussion Questions and Ideas:
From: A Teacher's Guide to The Lightning Thief
©2005 Rick Riordan (

  1. Percy has been diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). The main traits of ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. The ADHD child often has trouble keeping his mind on one thing and organizing a task. He feels restless and fidgety. He may blurt out comments or act without thinking. Does this profile fit Percy? Discuss how Percy does/does not seem like an ADHD child.
  2. Percy says, "Mr. Brunner expected me to be as good as everybody else, despite the fact I had dyslexia and I had never made above a C- in my life. No - he didn't expect me to be as good. He expected me to be better." What do you think of Mr. Brunner as a teacher?
  3. Percy's first encounter with an Olympian god is Mr. D, Dionysus. Initially, Percy has a hard time believing Mr. D is immortal. What is your reaction to the way Dionysus is portrayed in the book? The Greek gods have very human traits - would this make them easier or harder to believe in?
  4. After Percy learns he is a half-blood, he wonders who his own father is. He also learns that some half-bloods never find out. He says, "I thought about some of the kids I'd seen in the Hermes cabin - teenagers who looked sullen and depressed, like they were waiting for a call that would never come. I'd known kids like that at Yancy Academy, shuffled off to boarding school by rich parents who didn't have the time to deal with them. But gods should behave better." How would you feel if you were in Percy's place? Would it be easier to believe your father was dead, or to know that he was alive but not communicating with you?
  5. When Percy finally learns the truth that he is the son of Poseidon, are you surprised? What hints are dropped before the revelation? How does Percy's personality fit/not fit the god Poseidon?
  6. When describing the effects of Mist, Chiron says, "Remarkable, really, the lengths humans will go to fit things into their version of reality." How is this true in the novel? In Greek mythology? In real life?
  7. Percy's fight with Echidna and the Chimera is a low point for his morale. He begins to doubt that he is capable of being a hero. Why does he feel this way, and do you think his doubts are reasonable? What does this fight scene reveal about Percy's character?
  8. Read the modernized description of the Underworld in Ch. 18 - the EZ Death line, the security ghouls, the pollution in the River Styx. What do you think of this portrayal of the afterlife? Percy says Asphodel makes him depressed because "so few people did good in their lives." Do you think believing in paradise and punishment makes people more likely to do good deeds? What do you think of the Greek concept of Asphodel, a neutral area where most of the dead are sent to do nothing for eternity?

Related Websites:
Encyclopedia Mythica -

MythWeb -

Rick Riordan's Website -

Theoi Project: Guide to Greek Mythology -

The Children's Homer by Padraic Colum, 1982
The D'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths by Ingri & Edgar d'Aulaire, 1992
Favorite Greek Myths by Mary Pope Osborne, 1991
Heroes, Gods and Monsters of the Greek Myths by Bernard Evslin, 1984
Tales from the Odyssey by Mary Pope Osborne, 2003.

Other Books by the Author:
Big Red Tequila, 1997
The Widower's Two-Step, 1998
The Last King of Texas, 2000
The Devil Went Down to Austin, 2001
Cold Springs, 2003
Southtown, 2004
Mission Road, 2005
The Sea of Monsters, 2006 (sequel to The Lightning Thief)

About the Author:
Rick Riordan is the multi-award-winning author of the Tres Navarre mystery series for adults and the national bestselling Percy Jackson and the Olympians series for children.

For fifteen years, Rick taught English and history at public and private middle schools in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Texas. In 2002, Saint Mary's Hall honored him with the school's first Master Teacher Award.

His Percy Jackson series features a twelve-year-old dyslexic boy who discovers he is the modern-day son of a Greek god. The novels draw on Riordan's experience teaching Greek mythology and his interaction with students who have learning differences. The novel was a New York Times Notable Book for 2005 and has been optioned for feature film to Twentieth Century Fox.

Rick Riordan now writes full-time. He lives in San Antonio with his wife and two sons.
(From author's website)