The Lightning Thief (Rick Riordan) [Percy Jackson Series: #1]

Percy Jackson is just a regular kid. Just a regular, middle school kid. Sure, weird things happen to him. Water does strange things when he feels strong emotions. Or does it? Maybe he imagines it.

Actually, Percy J is sort of a son of Poseidon. It's kind of a long story, but Papa Poseidon and human Mama Jackson go their separate ways and Percy never knows his father. And it's all fun and games until a lightning bolt gets stolen. A rather important lightning bolt. Zeus's lightning bolt, to be exact. Zeus thinks Poseidon took it, Poseidon blames Hades, Hades blames everyone, and the world is going to implode unless that bolt can be recovered.

Percy Jackson and his friends are the kids for the job. They trek all over tarnation trying to locate the bolt and then return it back to Zeus in order to stop World War III, and all along the way it seems that everyone and everything are trying to stop them.

This is the first installment in the Percy Jackson series. The series is wildly popular with kids, and in its movie form as well. I can see why! Incredible suspense, Greek mythology, and classic good vs. evil all make for strong elements in young adult literature. I found it interesting that the author is a middle school English teacher. That explains how he nails middle school humor and logic so well.

African Mythology (Anansi)

Welcome to my maiden voyage into the world of graphic novels. Don't get me wrong, I know what the research says about graphic novels (specifically, boys and graphic novels) and I certainly have chosen several of them to enhance my school library collection, but I've simply never wanted to read one myself. 

Graphic novels are basically comic book-style books. They usually come in chapter books and are rich with illustrations. That feature, in addition to the chunking of text within subsections, is attractive to many reluctant readers. Which (not always) usually means boys. My graphic novel collection extends from Greek and Roman mythology to biographies of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington to plain old Spider Man and the Hulk. 

Personally, I would not choose to read a graphic novel. I'm definitely a visual learner, but my brain gets nervous when trying to decide which frames and text bubbles to read next. I caution all my kiddos who select these types of books about this, and instruct them on the LEFT-RIGHT, TOP-DOWN strategy for interpreting text within a graphic novel. 

But enough about graphic novels. 

This one is about Anansi, who was the world's first spider and desired to own the world's stories so he could know the beginnings and the ends of all things. To do this, he had to capture 3 creatures and take them to the sky god. (Can you tell this is from the 389.2 section?). Through some classic fable drama, he accomplishes his goal and lessons are learned in the process. This one is short enough for a student to read in a few minutes, and move right along to something else. 

Yeah, so the graphic novel thing is never going to be my bag, but there's always value in exploring something for the value of passing it along to someone who'll need it one day. 

Mockinjay (Suzanne Collins)

Katniss and Peeta have been forced to enter the arena yet again. Their victories in Hunger Games and Catching Fire were insufficient for the Capitol's cowardly scum, and Katniss and Peeta (along with dozens of other victors) must take part in a special round of the Games. This round will change everything. For everyone. 

The Games go badly, and Peeta is taken hostage by the Capitol. The President, who has developed an intense hatred of Katniss and Peeta over the past year, makes it his personal goal to torture Peeta beyond all recognition. 

Katniss has endured more, lost more, and been hurt more than any other tribute in the Games. She has to somehow find it within herself to pull it together for Peeta, and for the people of the districts. 

In a dramatic ending to a wildly climactic series, Katniss is faced with the opportunity to physically lead her people in a new direction. She shocks the world, and herself, with her choice. 

Best. Series. EVAH. Run along now and read it up today, people! 

The end. 

Catching Fire (Suzanne Collins)

Surely by now the Capitol has realized that by messing with Katniss Everdeen, they have messed with the wrong girl? 

Apparently not. 

Even though she survived her first Hunger Games, Katniss has been brought back for another round. The trivial matter of lifetime immunity has been brushed aside by the bloodthirsty savages in the Capitol. Interestingly enough, when Katniss emerged as a winner in her first Hunger Games, she began a spark of rebellion in the people of the districts that just may propel them all to freedom. With every subsequent victory, she grows in popularity as the symbolic leader of the insurrection against the Capitol. 

Interestingly enough, a key element in the success of the rebellions involves Katniss and Peeta's exploration of a romance...and no one, not even the two of them, can decipher its authenticity. 

Catching Fire was irrefutably substandard to Hunger Games, but an essential stepping stone to the phenomenal conclusion of Katniss and Peeta in Mockinjay. Stay tuned! 

The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)

Sometime in the future, there are 12 Districts. Each District is responsible for a certain industry, but is never permitted to flourish because of the tyranny of the Capitol. This means that every district is filled with people who are sick, starving, and always worried about basic needs. The Capitol controls boundaries, food, and medicine, and tightly so. 

As part of the Capitol's efforts to remind the people in the districts exactly who is in charge, every year the Hunger Games takes place. Two tributes from each district are selected by lottery to take part in a fight to the death, as the world watches it live on TV. The winner of the games is awarded a lifetime supply of food and shelter, which in turn benefits their entire district. 

Katniss Everdeen suddenly finds herself as one of this year's tributes for her district. Along with Peeta Melark (the other tribute from her district), Katniss enters the arena with a few dozen others who are eager to kill her as quickly as possible. The fights are gruesome, revealing the very worst of human nature, and leaving some definite surprises in the outcome of the most unique Hunger Games of all time. 

Without question, this book was the single best work of fiction I consumed in 2010. I was intrigued because there had been quite a bit of buzz surrounding the novel, and rightly so. To me, The Hunger Games was sort of The Giver meets The Lottery with a slice of Survivor and The Hatchet on the side, but somehow that strange combination was brilliant. I borrowed this book from a young adult library in my school's feeder pattern, and was so thankful that I had a Kindle to immediately download and begin the second book in the series! 

I barely even closed the cover of The Hunger Games before beginning the second book in the series. Next up, Catching Fire...