JUNE 21:

  • It’s the birth date of Robert Kraus (1925-2001) Leo the Late Bloomer, Whose Mouse Are You? .
  • Happy birthday, New Hampshire, which became the 9th state in the Union in 1788. Read The Trouble with Jeremy Chance by George Harrar and Lucy’s Summer by Donald Hall, illustrated by Michael McCurdy.
  • On this day in 2000, NASA reports evidence of possible ancient water on Mars. Read Mars Needs Moms! by Berkeley Breathed.
  • It’s Go Skateboarding Day. Read Skateboard Tough by Matt Christopher.
  • It’s also World Handshake Day. Read Sterkarm Handshake by Susan Price and Hands: Growing Up to be an Artist by Lois Ehlert.

Around this time of year we celebrate the longest day of the year, the summer solstice. This date looms large for the hero of our featured book, a kid who just can’t get a break. He’s never seen his father and lives with an odious and repellent stepfather when not away at boarding school for disturbed kids. He’s ADHD, hyperactive, always in trouble, and to make matters worse, he gets kicked out of school, again. Even those who like him say “you are not normal.” And weird things happen to him; on a field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of his teachers turns into a monster. Before she can kill him, he slays her with a ballpoint pen that miraculously turns into a sword.

Welcome to the world of Percy Jackson. In The Lightning Thief, the first volume of a series of gripping books, he discovers that he is a demi-god, the offspring of a mortal and a Greek god. His only safe haven turns out to be Camp Half Blood, where other demi-gods, kids his age, learn survival skills. To avoid a war among the Greek gods, Percy, son of Poseidon, must locate Zeus’s stolen thunderbolt and deliver it to the annual family get together on the solstice. An inventive plot, engaging characters, non-stop action, and an unpredictable ending have helped make the stories of Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan some of the most beloved reading for ten- to fourteen-year-olds in the last few years. Riordan was just voted author of the year in the Children’s Choice Book Awards administered by the Children’s Book Council. And as young readers devour Percy’s saga, they also learn a lot about Greek Mythology.

Much like Harry Potter’s Hogwarts, Camp Half Blood sounds like so much fun that everyone wants to attend. Since 2006 the good folk at BookPeople, an amazing independent bookstore in Austin, Texas, where Rick Riordan lives, have hosted several summer sessions of Camp Half Blood, a day camp where participants act out their roles as demi-gods. Not only do they study history, mythology, and literature, but also chariot racing, archery, and lava wall climbing as well. How I wish I could be there! But if you can’t this summer, you can at least curl up with The Lightning Thief and its sequels — a perfect time for a Percy Jackson readathon.

Here’s a passage from The Lightning Thief:

A word about my mother, before you meet her.

Her name is Sally Jackson and she’s the best person in the world, which just proves my theory that the best people have the rottenest luck. Her own parents died in a plane crash when she was five, and she was raised by an uncle who didn’t care much about her. She wanted to be a novelist, so she spent high school working to save enough money for a college with a good creative-writing program. Then her uncle got cancer, and she had to quit school her senior year to take care of him. After he died, she was left with no money, no family, and no diploma.

The only good break she ever got was meeting my dad.


Originally posted June 21, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Adventure, Magic, Mythology, Seasons, Summer
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for The Lightning Thief


  1. First of all, love seeing Percy featured here. Kids do love his exploits. But The Sterkarm Handshake? I adored that book when I read it many years ago, but my memory is of the handshake being a treacherous symbol for those rough Sterkarms. Not really a story about the polite act of handshaking:)

  2. Barbara Gogan says:

    One of the very few series my son can’t wait to read! I find it appeals to a slightly younger reader than the Harry Potter series because of the humor.
    Did you read how he was inspired to write this when he was dealing with his own son’s learning issues? I find so many boys can identify with Percy.

    Of course girls tend to love it too–and me!

  3. Anita says:

    Monica: I do get a bit playful with some of the sidebar recommondations — in case you hadn’t noticed.

  4. Winnie says:

    Hi Anita,
    Thanks for the heads-up on the post about The Lightning Thief. What a great selection of the publication date–the summer solistice! Riordan’s books has really changed my life in way, because they opened up a doorway into the publishing business here for me.

  5. Jamie says:

    This series is such a great segue into reading Greek mythology. Whenever I see a kid choose The Lightning Thief, I want to send D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths with them because they will be consuming these stories left and right. It’s always amazing to hear younger kids so well-versed about mythology, simply because this series led them to it.

  6. Anita says:

    Winnie: So nice to hear from you. Can you provide a link to your Riordan translations for people? I think they would be as interested as I always have been.

  7. Winnie says:

    To all readers of Book-A-Day Almanac:
    The Taiwanese publisher of Rick Riordan’s the Percy Jackson series, the Kane Chronicles series and the Heroes of Olympus series launched an official blog to promote his books. I’ve hosted this blog ever since they published the complex Chinese edition of The Lightning Thief: http://blog.ylib.com/PercyJackson

    Here in this post you can find the published complex Chinese editions of Riordan’s books:

    One special feature of our editions is that we include the notes to almost all cultural, geographical and mythological references in Riordan’s books. Sorting out those references sometimes make me wonder about Riordan’s bibliography.

  8. Christine says:

    My 12 year old loves this series. Just like Percy, she is dyslexic. It’s funny how her friends will lovingly tease her about her spelling and ask her if she is a half-blood. This book totally drew her in and she read the whole series by herself. It was a HUGE accomplishment for her and I love Rick Riordan for that.

  9. Suzi W. says:

    STILL have not read these. Ack. But when I was at a conference in May, I heard John Rocco speak about creating the covers. One of my goals at this new job is to get the first books of major series like this one in. (We have such a small collection that we don’t even have a full set of Harry Potter.)

    Thanks for continuing to post these…what a labor of love the Almanac really is.

  10. I love The Lightning Thief and the rest of the series. I love the way the story helps kids and adults understand mythology in a down to earth way. Great post!

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