Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Book 1: Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters

Book 1:
The Sea of Monsters, Rick Riordan

Percy Jackson is all set to return to Camp Half-Blood for his second summer, except his mom doesn’t want him to. He’s going to follow her instructions, but on his last day of school monsters try to kill him and he escapes with Tyson (his friend from school) and Annabeth, his friend from camp who he went questing with the year before. When they make it to camp, Percy learns that Tyson is actually a Cyclops – and his half-brother. The camp is also in danger, as the tree that protects them is dying. Percy, Tyson, and Annabetth secretly leave camp to save their friend the satyr Grover and to find the Golden Fleece, which will save the tree. Along the way, they run into their nemesis Luke, fight monsters, get separated, and nearly escape death multiple times. Eventually, they save Grover and find the Golden Fleece, successfully sending it back to camp with Clarissee before Luke can use it to rescue the titan Kronos. At the end, camp is saved, as well as the tree – which causes Thalia to be healed and return to her human form.

Use of myths:
Riordan uses myths in a number of ways, including using them as the basis for his series. Percy is the son of the god Poseidon, the camp director is the god Dionysus, the camp is for the children of one god and one human, and the greater evil force is the titan Kronos. Essentially, what Riordan explains in the first book in the series is that the gods move with the center of western civilization, so that Olympus currently sits above the Empire State Building. As Percy learns above the many ways this affects his life as a half-blood, particular components of Greek mythology get explained, so the reader does not get too overwhelmed with the many details.

Beyond that, though, Riordan uses the hero cycle and archetypes to follow Percy’s journey. The components of the hero cycle in the novel can be seen below.

Call to Adventure
Arrival of giants at school
Supernatural Aid
Annabeth and Tyson saving him and then escaping in the supernatural taxi
Threshold Guardian(s)
Fighting the monsters on the hill with Clarisse and the other campers
Figuring out what the next step should be (with Annabeth, building a chariot)
Acquires a helper
Revelation of Tyson as half-brother
Acquires a mentor
Gifts from Hermes
Experiences challenges and temptations
Experiences on the cruise ship
Meets another helper
Joins Clarisse on her ship of Confederate soldiers
Revelation at the abyss
The Abyss is the island with the Cyclops; the revelation is that he cares deeply for Tyson and won’t let them all lose
Transformation into a proud warrior and Tyson’s brother
Fight with Luke
Receives the gift of the Goddess
Clarisse leaves with the Golden Fleece
Returns to the camp and Thalia reappears

There are also many archetypes present. First, Percy Jackson stands in as the hero. He answers the call to adventure, and also puts others ahead of himself. This includes putting his differences with Clarisse aside to work with her for their common goal, as well as risking his life for his other friends. Another archetype present is Kronos as the villain. Although the reader already knows who he is and that he is evil from the previous book, his exact place and role are unclear until the end when Thalia is resurrected. The mother figure in some respects is Annabeth, as she guides Percy even though he is the hero. Percy also fulfills the archetype of the underdog, as his troubles with ADHD and dyslexia constantly place him at disadvantage. These are only some of the archetypes evident in this book, and they also have a role in the series as a whole.

One of the things that stuck out to me about the use of myths in this book is to connect with students with learning disabilities. The half-bloods struggle with ADHD and dyslexia, which are actually signs of their godly parentage. According to him, their brains are hardwired for battle reflexes and to read ancient Greek, so there isn’t only a reason for their weaknesses, but they also can be seen as strengths. This serves to help connect a reader who has one or both of these conditions to Percy and the other half-bloods, and to also show them that just because they struggle does not mean they cannot be a hero.

Like the first book in the series, The Sea of Monsters is fun, action-packed, and witty. Riordan keeps readers on their toes while constantly teaching them about mythology, and he makes it very believable that there could be half-bloods and the Greek gods around us. Percy continues to grow in this book, both in his personal strength as the son of Poseidon and also as a person. His relationship with Tyson is believable – like any child not wanting to be mean to someone because they, too, were bullied, but also not quite enjoying their new shadow. As a whole, Riordan has written another fun way of teaching mythology and demonstrating that anyone – whether or not they have a learning disability – can be a hero.

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