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Summer reading: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief

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On my summer holiday last year, I read: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

“It’s the best book I have ever read!” I was told this by a Year 5 boy leaning over my desk, eyes shining as he bounced slightly in a fit of book-induced enthusiasm. It happened one afternoon at the beginning of silent reading and, not being accustomed to such hyperbole from this student, I was intrigued.

As soon as I could, I happened into my local independent book retailer and snaffled myself a copy of Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief.

It’s a fantasy-adventure novel based on Greek mythology, where 12-year-old Percy has to catch the thief who has stolen Zeus’s lightning, battling mythical beasts along the way.

I hold my hands up: I am not the greatest reader of teachery tomes at the best of times, let alone in my holidays. I want to sit back, put my feet up and lose myself in a good story (as much my own children allow), rather than bend my brain cells to something I have to think hard about.

But reading a children’s book – particularly one that Year 5 boys are raving about – counts as work, right? Time reading what they are reading is always time well spent.

There are children’s books out there that I don’t like but this isn’t one of them. From the first page, just like my young pupil, I was hooked. I loved the style, the sly asides; I loved the fast-paced, page-turning adventure. But more than that, I enjoyed the pungent whiff of scholarliness that drifts off the pages. It can lead, if you are not very careful, to a rather strong out-of-term interest in the stories of the Ancient Greeks. All sorts of topic-type ideas tumbled into my brain as I sat out in the garden, nose in the book, pretending to keep my darlings from harm.

There you are, reclining in the sunshine, and before you know it, you have reached for your glitter gel pens and your new notebooks. Then you are jotting down the ancient stories you know and the ones you don’t. It doesn’t take long before you are wondering whether you could plot the places mentioned on a map, ready for your own odyssey; you make a list of celestial beings and hideous monsters so you know who’s who. A monster-fighting guide is the tip of the iceberg of literary possibility.

So, with the rest of the holidays hovering before us, I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending this book. If you teach the upper juniors and you’ve got the Ancient Greeks in the planner, I’d say it was a necessity. And yes, there are other books in the series. And yes, I have read all of those, too.

This summer I plan to read: Something trashy!

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