Sunday, July 24, 2016

Percy Jackson's Greek Gods (Rick Riordan)


Title:  Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods

Author:  Rick Riordan

Illustrator:  John Rocco

Target Ages:  10 and up

Genre:  Mythological Collection

Publisher Summary:
“A publisher in New York asked me to write down what I know about the Greek gods, and I was like, Can we do this anonymously? Because I don't need the Olympians mad at me again. But if it helps you to know your Greek gods, and survive an encounter with them if they ever show up in your face, then I guess writing all this down will be my good deed for the week.

So begins Percy Jackson's Greek Gods, in which the son of Poseidon adds his own magic--and sarcastic asides--to the classics. He explains how the world was created, then gives readers his personal take on a who's who of ancients, from Apollo to Zeus. Percy does not hold back. ‘If you like horror shows, blood baths, lying, stealing, backstabbing, and cannibalism, then read on, because it definitely was a Golden Age for all that.’”

First Lines:
“I hope I’m getting extra credit for this. 
A publisher in New York asked me to write down what I know about the Greek gods, and I was like, ‘Can we do this anonymously? Because I don’t need the Olympians mad at me again.’
But if it helps you to know your Greek gods, and survive an encounter with them if they ever show up in your face, then I guess writing all this down will be my good deed for the week.”

Evaluation:
I listened to this book with my teen son. The narrator, Jesse Berstein, does a fantastic job with tone and voice. He embodies the character of Percy Jackson perfectly, but also changes his voice to distinguish the other characters. If you can get the audio recording, I highly recommend it.

The point of view is an interesting mix of literary elements.  Percy Jackson is a fictional character from the modern era that has encountered each of the gods in his own life.  While the focus of the storytelling is on ancient world myths, he makes remarks from his personal experience as well. 

Another element related to point of view is how the author has crafted through his storyteller frequent juxtapositions of the ancient and modern world.  As he lists or describes a situation using ancient concepts, he often shifts to connect them to the modern world.  For instance, after Persephone goes missing, they brainstorm ways to help find her like “offering a reward, putting [her] face on milk cartons, and stapling missing posters around town” (81). This technique brings out the character of Percy Jackson, both as a modern protagonist as well as a humorous personality.  Also, it is a way to make the ancient world stories more concrete and relevant for 21st century readers.  Educators and parents can use the contrasts as a springboard to evaluate the specific juxtapositions or to teach the general concept of juxtaposition.

The story telling is highly engaging. It is broken down into chapters on different gods and goddesses. Then, there are several narratives related to each one within the chapter. Many stories will be familiar to young readers, but there are some nice gems that will be new to most.  The stories are ideal for building knowledge of mythology and ancient Greek culture.

Many figurative elements are used. Irony is plentiful—especially verbal.  There are puns, like “Poseidon gets salty.”  Idioms are used, such as “out of his league” and “broke the ice.”  There are similes, metaphors, hyperbole, and understatement examples sprinkled in. 

My only concern is age-appropriateness. There are frequent references to adultery, murder, and, even, rape. As we know, those were activities often attributed to the Greek gods. The behaviors are not glorified though. Nothing is described graphically. Adults will know what is happening, but younger children will not likely grasp the significance. For those with younger readers, you may want to review the book in advance to make sure you are comfortable with the material.

Overall, Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods is a thrilling book to read or to listen to. My son and I enjoyed it so much that we are now listening to Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes.

Activities and Extension Ideas for Lesson Plans:
  • Religion: Discuss how the students'/family's ideas about god and the supernatural compare with those of the Greeks.  You may want to ask questions like:  How would you describe the motives and actions of the gods?  How are they similar to humans?  How are they similar to supernatural beings?  Why do you think the Greeks chose to see their gods as more human than god-like?  
  • Mythology:  Pick 2 or more myths to compare and to contrast.  What do these myths say about the Greeks' views on life? Their fears? Their values? Their views on human nature?
  •  Characterization & Irony:  Discuss ironies in characterization.  For instance, Aphrodite is the goddess of love, but she is known for being hateful and causing strife while Ares is the god of war, but he is depicted as being wimpy.  Why do you think the Greeks chose to paint their god in such contrasting lights?
  • Figurative Language: Discuss examples of similes, metaphors, juxtaposition, irony, and so forth.
  • Voice:  How does the author develop and illustrate the "voice" of Percy Jackson as well as the other characters?  (See some of the notes in the evaluation to get a discussion started.)

Historical Connections:
Ancient Greece
Trojan War

9 comments:

  1. Greek Gods are often popular with boys and Rick Riordan always delivers an engaging story. Thanks for your thoughts on this one.

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  2. Familiarity with these gods is good knowledge to have, and this book sounds engaging. Thanks for reviewing.

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  3. I really enjoyed this one and I'm glad to hear the audiobook is good. I just saw the Percy Jackson's Greek Heroes audiobook on our shelves and you've convinced me to check it out.

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  4. Sounds like another winner in the Percy Jackson series. Like the focus on Greek heroes. You really give great suggestions for activities!

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  5. I really liked this book as well and so did my grandson. I hadn't thought of looking for an audio book. Maybe we will do that on the Heroes book. Thanks for the post.

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  6. I'm behind in the series but I also liked listening to audio versions of some of the books in the series.

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  7. My son enjoys Percy Jackson and I'm amazed by how much he's learned about Greek mythology. Thanks for the thorough review. I like how you give ideas for discussion at the end of your post!

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  8. I loved the pace and action of the book, but was completely stunned that this is recommend for middle-graders. The weird head in a box that his mother uses to kill his step father. Why is this great for kids?

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    1. Kitty, this work is marketed by the publisher for a middle school audience. The School Library Journal suggests grades 3-7. However, I put in a caution about it because I realize the material may be sensitive for some families. Some of the actions I mentioned are not "good" for kids, but the myths themselves are beneficial for gaining a foundation of stories that make up the cornerstone of all literature. The Bible as well as nearly all classical literature deals with immoral choices such as are found in this book. I leave it up to parents and teachers to review the material to make a decision if it is right for their audience and to frame their post discussions to meet their goals for educational or moral development.

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