Saturday, 1 June 2013

Book Recommendation and Review: Rick Riordan

Until this year, I'll admit that I never knew very much about children's literature. As I enter the professional world of the publishing industry and completed an internship with Scholastic Canada, it really opened my eyes to the amazing books and talented authors of children's literature. Now I've got quite a collection of AMAZING authors and books for young readers, and a whole LIST of authors to recommend to parents or kids who want something new to read.

But right now, I'd like to focus on one author in particular, that I think deserves more recognition.

J.K. Rowling, up until last summer, was my sole favourite children's author. Sure, I appreciated other talented and up-and-coming authors, as well as iconic names and titles like Dr. Seus, Clifford, and Robert Munsch, but Rowling's Harry Potter books quite literally changed my love for books. I was hooked, and I developed tunnel vision in book selection, thinking that NOTHING could rival my love for Harry Potter.

But after watching the movie Percy Jackson and The Olympians: The Lightning Thief in theatres back in 2010, I found a new appreciation for the fantasy genre within children's lit. I didn't remember that this movie began as a book until I spotted it in my monthly trip to Chapters. I bought the first book after hesitating greatly over buying one or buying the whole set right on the spot. I really enjoyed the movie, but I've had bad experiences buying a book set and then discovering I hated the books. But from the moment I started reading the first book of Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, I was hooked. I read the first book in a matter of hours and drove back to Chapters to buy the rest of the books the next day.

Now, I own The Olympians set, The Heroes of Olympus set, The Demigod Diaries, and The Kane Chronicles set. I'm anxiously awaiting the release of House of Hades, as well as the release of the film The Sea of Monsters. Logan Lerman? The PERFECT Percy Jackson.

I do have a preference for The Olympians series, but read anything by Riordan and you won't be disappointed. As someone who received my minor in Classical Studies (I would have double majored if my university hadn't been cutting classical studies courses every year!), I can honestly say that Riordan is the only author I've ever read who can write about classical mythology! I'm grateful and beyond impressed that he gets the mythology right and does not make it sound...well, bad. I don't know how many times I've seen the myths destroyed for the sake of entertainment. These myths don't need exaggeration or embellishment--they do perfectly fine on their own, if you're a talented writer. And Riordan proves that you don't need to change anything about these ancient tales.

The amount of research and effort that Riordan puts into his dialogue and descriptions of mythological monsters, the retellings of the myths, the history of the Greeks and Romans, as well as the characterization of gods and heroes is amazing. I cannot express how much respect, appreciation, and awe I have for Riordan and his writing ability.

I recommend anything Riordan has written to young readers (when I say young, I mean school-age readers to teens readers. Readers who can handle some violence, plot depth, and novel-length books). I also recommend Riordan's books to readers who love Harry Potter, Eragon, or other similar fantasy books. It's a fantastic choice for readers who are ready for the bigger chapter books, but also for kids to actually LEARN something, without feeling like they're in school. Riordan's writing style draws you in so it doesn't feel like you're learning about ancient mythology, history, and legends from two of the greatest civilizations in history.

I feel that Riordan is under-appreciated in Canada, considering his fan-base seems much larger in the States. For example, there are Camp Half-Bloods summer camps for kids, huge promotional book launches, etc. That, and his name isn't as well-known to people that I talk to. This makes me sad, but anytime I'm asked for a book recommendation from parents or friends, I always encourage them to pick up Riordan's Percy Jackson series.

The language is accessible for young readers, but Riordan's narrative addresses a large audience. There's excitement, drama, a teenage romance, suspense, and of course, mythology! Kids can learn about monsters and creatures that appear in other entertainment mediums, such as centaurs, Medusa, the gods (watching Disney's Hercules should become an eye-opening experience with all the changes that they made to the mythology!), differences between Greek, Roman, and Egyptian myths, and legendary heroes like Hercules, Perseus, and Theseus.

For teenage readers, the books are fast-paced, so don't let the slightly longer length intimidate you. Also, much like the Harry Potter books, you'll notice an intensification in the reading level and plot of the Percy Jackson books from book one (The Lightning Thief) to book five (The Last Olympian). The last book is my favourite as the demigods finally face Kronos and his army in New York, and the fate of the world is up for grabs in this final showdown between good and evil.

It is so incredibly important to get kids and teens reading. Spelling, language, reading abilities, critical thinking skills, and other beneficial skills come out of reading. Fostering a love for reading will help kids in school, not only in their reading comprehension, but in studying, in the ability to take information away from reading, and so much more. Finding a book that will interest young readers can be a daunting and seemingly impossible task, but I sincerely argue that if you're looking for an author who can capture your attention, imagination, and devotion to reading, it's Riordan.

Whether you're a younger reader, a teenage reader, or a die-hard Potter fan like myself, looking for another fantastic book addiction, Rick Riordan's books are the perfect choice. Exciting, an easy-read, and subtly educational, Rick Riordan's book series' ranks a spot on my favourites shelf, right next to J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter.

And this is the highest compliment I can give a book and its author. Trust me.

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