Pragmatic Mom

January 25, 2010

Percy Jackson Series by Rick Riordan

I took a day off the computer yesterday and just read books 2 through 5 of the Percy Jackson series.  I have to say it was the best day ever!  This is a really wonderful series with wide appeal both in age and in gender and the range is ages 8-adult.  There is also no weak link in the series and every book stands on it’s own, though I do suggest reading them in order.  I’ve included my previous book review of the first book, The Lightening Thief, below, and can add that I stayed up way past my bedtime, AGAIN, to finish the last book. They Are Simply That Good!

I’ve added the classic Mythology by Edith Hamilton which I read and loved as a child.  You may as well capitalize on an interest in Greek Mythology and even Roman Mythology that this series will instill in your child.  The Usborne is great for younger readers but Edith Hamilton is THE expert and her Mythology book has greater detail.

I also wanted to add that I bought the 5 book set listed below; the one that looks like it’s in a treasure box.  It’s $52 but the books are all hard cover, so I feel like it’s a bargain.  Also, I never found any of the Percy Jackson books sitting on the library shelves and I was too lazy to reserve so it was easier to just buy the set.  My 4th grader was just as excited as I was to open the box, and she abandoned Harry Potter, Book 6, to dive right in.  She also LOVED them which was very gratifying to me.   I do feel that I’ll get good use out of the books as I’m quite confident all my kids will go through this series at some point and LOVE IT!

The Lightening Thief by Rick Riodan.  This is “Harry Potter meets Greek Mythology” and it’s a fantastic read!  It’s such a page-turner that I stayed up to 2 a.m. to finish it!  This is a MUST READ before the movie comes out!

Percy Jackson is an ADD, dyslexic 6th grade hero who has trouble staying in school because, as it turns out, he’s no ordinary human but a half-blood related to one of the big three in Greek Mythology.  He must find and return Zeus’ lost lightening bolt to prevent WWIII.  This series makes Greek Mythology come alive so I’ve included a Greek Mythology book as well.  The level of difficulty is slightly easier than Book 1 of Harry Potter; this book is 375 pages long, normal sized type.  [ages 8-14]

(boxed set of first three books, $11.69)

(boxed set of all 5 books, $51.97)

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January 20, 2010

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

Grace Lin is the children’s literature version of Amy Tan. Her latest book, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is her best yet.  She weaves Chinese folk tales into a tapestry of stories where the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts.   There is always a  sweetness and  innocence to her writing; there are always loving parents and children learning to believe in themselves and their culture.

This could be Grace Lin’s own story. A RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) graduate, she dreamed as a child to become a children’s author and illustrator. And, it turns out, she did this with her best friend from childhood…the one who moves away to California just like her book The Year of the Rat.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is an Asian-American version of the Percy Jackson series starting with The Lightening Thief. Where Riordan weaves in Greek Mythology into his plot, Grace Lin uses Chinese Folk Tales into a wonderful, inspiring and heart-warming story that teaches all of us to just… BELIEVE.

My kids’ friends in 5th grade all voted this book the best book they’ve read this year. It is age appropriate for 8-12-year-olds, but frankly I enjoyed it too. Grace LIn gives a wonderful bibliography of Chinese Folk Tales that she used in the writing of the tale. She has beautifully illustrated this book to resemble Chinese paper cut-out art mixed in with 4 color paintings.  I’ll be shocked and surprised if she doesn’t win a slew of awards for this book!

If you are interested in a book discussion comparing Where the Mountain Meets the Moon to The Lightening Thief, I came up with some open-ended questions.  Some might require outside research.

1)  How old are the Chinese Folk Tales approximately?  How old are the Greek Myths?

2) Do you see any similarities in any of the stories?  Why do you think there might be similar stories?

3) What causes rain?  How do Chinese Folk Tales explain rain?  How about Greek Mythology?  Why do you think they have these stories?  What makes rain so important to the ancient Chinese?  ancient Greeks?

4) What causes death?  How do Chinese Folk Tales explain death?  How about Greek Mythology?  Which story do you like better?

5) Do we have any myths or beliefs that we can portent the future?  What about fortune tellers or psychics?  Who do you go to in Chinese Folk Tales to get your future told?  How about in Greek Mythology?  Why is knowing the future so important to people?  Are we so different than ancient Greeks or ancient Chinese?

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