The frenzy of anticipation for the next Rick Riordan is something I know well. The rush for his newest, The Throne of Fire, will look very similar to what I have experienced in the past:
Girls hip-checking each other out of the way in their race for my last copy of The Last Olympian, kids keeping lists on the board for who gets the next available copy of the latest Percy Jackson volume, kids I don’t even teach coming by my classroom trying to score a copy of The Battle of the Labyrinth. It’s all part of Riordan mania at my school in Nashville.
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It seems as if Percy’s been around forever, so I was amazed when I checked the copyright on The Lightning Thief: 2005. That’s a lot of books in just a few years: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Heroes of Olympus, The Kane Chronicles…The gods must be crazy with joy for Riordan’s way with young readers.
One year, we taught The Lightning Thief in seventh grade, but then it became too popular; no sense in teaching a book everyone’s already read. When the movie came out, we took 75 seventh graders to see it and enjoyed the scene set here in Nashville. It’s not in the book, but we do have a Parthenon with a giant statue of Athena, and, as we like to say here, our Parthenon is better—it’s not falling apart like the other one.
I’ve reviewed many of the books and enjoy the borrowed glory of having blurbs on the back covers: “Look no further for the next Harry Potter; meet Percy Jackson, as legions of fans already have.” The recent books have been embargoed, meaning I can’t share them with my students before the book is published, as I used to. Students used to take such pleasure in having books nobody else had yet, but now they have to wait like (almost) everyone else.
I realize I have a sadistic streak—what fun to walk into class a few days ago with The Throne of Fire and tantalize students with this forbidden fruit. But, of course, when May 3—pub date—comes, so will the book into my classroom, and if I’m not quite as heroic as Carter Kane channeling the Egyptian war god Horus, I’m at least Mr. Schneider creating a classroom that hosts these great books and that gives kids time to read.
The Throne of Fire is a rollicking read, following what has become a formula since 2005—wisecracking teen protagonists, a hint of romance and nonstop action right from chapter one. Percy Jackson still reigns supreme with my students in this pantheon of godly tales. They can identify with this flawed hero, with his dyslexia, ADD, lousy grades and the intimation that there’s more to him than people see.
But there’s really no need to choose one over the other. My big readers select everything from this smorgasbord of great stories. When the embargo lifts on The Throne of Fire, so will the spirits of my students—let the book grabbing and hip-checking begin.