Percy Jackson and the Olympians

percy fighting with friends

The time has come! I am finally blogging about my favorite book series that I have mentioned in many other posts. I’ve seriously read all of the books about ten times each and I’m not even exaggerating. Percy Jackson and the Olympians is one of the best books that a kid could read. Some say that it’s just one of those fast reads to pass the time and that you’ll forget it all a year later (*cough cough* my sister). I mean, sure, it doesn’t use fancy language and it’s so exciting that you’ll fly through the book, but it’s more than just a fast read. It teaches about Greek mythology, which is actually a great thing to know.

Before I go into why it’s the best series, here’s a quick summary of what it’s about.

Percy Jackson grew up thinking that, besides his ADHD and dyslexia, he was a normal kid. Then, due to an unfortunate series of events, he ends up at Camp Half Blood. Here he learns that everything from Greek mythology is true and that he is a demigod, the son of a mortal and a god. Camp Half Blood is the only safe place for demigods because the monsters from the legends are real and they hunt for demigods. At camp, he makes friends and trains to become a Greek warrior. Throughout the series, he and his friends go on dangerous quests and meet/learn about gods, monsters, and stories from Greek mythology.

Here Percy meet the minotaur

percy and the minotaur

Here our heroes meet the sorceress Circe. Guess where Percy is.

annabeth and circe

Riding pegasi would definitely be a perk to being a demigod!

blackjack vs venti

These are all amazing fan art pictures people drew of scenes from the book. There’s a lot more, but I’ll just leave it at that.

And that’s the story of Percy Jackson in a nutshell. Of course, there’s a super cool plot to the story, an epic problem to resolve, and amazing characters, but I don’t want to give too much away.

Maybe I’m overly enthusiastic about these books, but they are the first books I read that I actually enjoyed. Up until sixth grade, I hated reading. Thanks to a friend, I reluctantly agreed to read Percy Jackson, and to my surprise, I loved it. That’s why I think it’s a great series for kids. Lots of kids hate reading and say it’s not for them, but I don’t think that’s true. Reading is for everyone. As it was in my case, I think the kids who hate reading just haven’t found a type of book that they enjoy yet. Maybe Percy Jackson isn’t some great classic piece of literature, but honestly, great classic pieces of literature bore kids to death. They need some fun reads so that they can learn to first enjoy reading, and then move on to higher level books. For example, after I learned that I liked reading, I sped through many, as my sister would call them, “insubstantial fast reads.” But even these books helped me. By the time I was forced to read hard-to-understand classics, I was read to move on from the “insubstantial fast reads” and finally enjoy the old classics I had hated for so long.

Not only is Percy Jackson and the Olympians a great bridge to higher level reading, but the series itself teaches something really useful: mythology. Now when I was in sixth grade, mythology wasn’t of much use to me, but I really enjoyed the it the way Rick Riordan wrote about it. He does write about stories and characters from Greek mythology accurately, but he adds more personality to them which make it much more interesting. It wasn’t until seventh or eighth grade that I started to appreciate the mythology I had learned. We were learning about ancient Greece in history so knowing something about it gave me a little advantage over many of the other kids. The summer before tenth grade I was REALLY grateful that I had read Percy Jackson. For my summer English homework, I had to read a gigantic book about mythology. Percy Jackson saved my life. The whole book was a bit dull but I was able to get through it because I could relate it to my favorite series. Plus I already know most of the stories in the mythology book. It’s just that even though both Percy Jackson and the Olympians and the Mythology book talk about a lot of same things, Percy Jackson is more interesting, and therefore easier to learn. It has more of a story and developed characters with personalities. The mythology book’s character’s, however, are not very developed. It just tells you what happens, so when something happens to a character or someone dies, I didn’t care much because I didn’t really know the character. Basically, without Percy Jackson, I  would’ve forgotten everything in about a month. And when it came to the test on mythology the first week of school, I realized that I would have done well even if I hadn’t done the summer homework.  Most of the books we read in tenth grade English class made a ton of references to mythology,  so knowing it helped me better understand, appreciate, and enjoy the literature we read. It also helped when I had to analyze these references for homework. Looking back, I’m so glad I read this series in sixth grade. Back then, it was just a fun book for me to read, but now it’s also the most helpful thing I have ever read.

So Percy Jackson is the bridge to higher level reading in two ways: 1. Because it helps kids first learn to like reading and 2. because it teaches mythology and a bunch of works of literature make an insane amount of references to mythology. Those are just the practical reasons though. I really say it’s the best book just because it has an amazing story, and all humans love a good story. That’s what makes a book good. Percy Jackson and the Olympians is exactly that: a great story…with benefits.

 

 

 

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All Quiet On The Western Front

Trench

Ok, ok. So yes, it’s about World War I and yes, I too thought when I started that I would hate it. I suppose classics used to be for me as Mark Twain says: “‘Classic’-a book which people praise and don’t read”. (You may notice I’ve been liking Mark Twain quotes a lot lately). But I’m liking classics now. I mean, I generally prefer fantasy, but I loved this book! Sad story for sure, but I still loved it. Alright, now to the point of this post. Well, probably not right away, but I’ll get there.

Remember when we were little kids and everything was black and white? People were either good or evil, and the good guys always beat the bad guys. Or so the superhero comics taught us. Then you grow up, and nothing is that simple anymore. Everything is ugly gray.

When I was little and just starting to learn history, I saw the it in the same way. Black or White, Good or Evil. This is how I looked at wars. I used to think one side is Good and the other side is Evil. So when I learned about World War I, I saw the Allies as the good guys and the Central Powers as the bad guys, just because I lived in America, and I thought America is good. And if America is good, then the other side must be bad, so therefore the Central powers are bad. Or so reasoned my young mind. Then I got older, and I found that America is not as good and the opposing powers are not as bad as grownups had made me think. That’s why I found All Quiet On The Western Front so interesting; it tells the story of World War I from the perspective of a German soldier name Paul Baumer, or the “bad guy” as I used to think.

Paul Baumer is an ordinary young man. His teacher fills his and his classmates heads with ideas about the glory of war and the nobility of fighting for your country. His words convince Paul and some of his other students to enlist. Throughout the war, Paul undergoes a complete transformation. He begins as an eager, naïve boy and becomes a bitter and battle-hardened man. His values and perspectives change. His whole life, adults had told him the importance of education and preached the perfection of his country. Then he goes to war, and he realizes that all his years of schooling do him no good in battle and he begins to question his country and his government. He realizes that most men on the Allies side who he thinks of as the “bad guys” are actually not bad guys. Most are men like Paul who only try to kill the men on the other side because their government has told them to.  I suppose I could compare Paul to myself, except on opposite sides. When I was little I thought the Allies were the good guys and Paul thought the Central Powers were the good guys. Then we became older, and we found that neither were Good or Bad, Black or White. Just gray.

Why So Many Kids Hate Reading

This is one of my favorite quotes ever. It’s telling the reader not to analyze the book like a piece of literature, to just enjoy the story. Mark Twain says this at the beginning of Huckleberry Finn, which I find extremely ironic considering this is one of the most analyzed books EVER.

So I was thinking, is it school’s fault that so many kids hate reading? Yep, I’m pretty sure. In the early grades, teachers force you to read those little stories and write sentences on them. But children are very contrary, and they rarely enjoy doing what they are told. Plus, if you have to read for homework, then reading must be bad because homework is bad. Or so is the logic of a young child. When I was little, I remember how much I despised books and reading. If someone told me that when I got older, I would love reading so much that I would read books ALL THE TIME and even start a blog talking about how much I love books, I would have either been amused or appalled. Possibly both. I think the problem is that many kids don’t read outside of school. Sometimes people ask me things like “How could you possibly like reading? It’s so boring” to which I respond with a question of my own “Have you ever read a book outside of school?” I usually get a blank stare and I say, “Aha! That’s the problem.”

It was around middle school that I started to like reading…and ruin my eyes as a consequence. But that’s not the point! The point is that I finally found books that were really interesting. I found my genre. I enjoy fantasy the most because it is so creative and completely unlike our ordinary everyday lives. It became my escape when I found reality too much to bear. And after I learned to love reading fantasy, I found that my tastes expanded to more genres. I even began to like the mandatory school books. Before I discovered fantasy, I looked at reading as just another unfortunate assignment that I would have to analyze, write essays on, and take tests about. I didn’t look at the story, just the facts IN the story I would have to do homework on.

So I guess what I’m saying is that reading is for everyone. All of us like stories, whether it be on the TV or in a book or in everyday gossip.  But books have the most potential to be an excellent story. That’s how I look at every book I read. A story. Even for school books, I really don’t care about the themes or symbolism or any other literary terms or techniques, because, first and foremost, it is a story. Stories are meant to entertain and make us think. I hate it when people over-analyze literature. I honestly believe that most authors aren’t focused on all of the themes and plots and other literary stuff they include in their books; their primary focus is the story itself. I think it is especially silly to think too hard about why an author wrote a sentence with certain punctuation and come up with a bunch of different reasons why. Sure, it probably has a purpose, but not a very important one. I know that I really don’t care much about why an author would use a semi colon instead of a period, and I almost doubt that the author cares much either. I mean, Mark Twain is considered one of the best authors of all times, and he says that his book is not meant to have any particular purpose or moral so don’t go analyzing it. Unfortunately, everyone has ignored his demand. People have analyzed the heck out of his books. I assume that Mark Twain wrote his books just because he wanted to tell a cool story, and I believe many other authors are the same way.

Ok, I just made it sound like I hate analyzing literature. I don’t mind it too much; it can be very interesting, but I really don’t like it when people over do it. Looking at books as literature has driven people away from wanting to read them. Classics are literature, and when people my age think of the words “classic” and “literature”, we tend to cringe. Or at least I do. I don’t know about the rest of you. I used to think of classics and literature as those old boring books that teachers make me suffer through. It’s only recently that I have begun to like classics more. Still not as good as fantasy, but, well, it’s progress. I have been lucky this year; the books in school have been excellent. I may even write some reviews on them. So what was the purpose of this post? Yeah, I don’t know. Maybe I just wanted to express my opinion. Or maybe I wanted to give you this advice: when you have to read literature, look at it as if its just another story. It’ll make it a lot more enjoyable.

 

Unwanteds

Unwanteds

Why are children so creative? So imaginative? So observant? Children, especially the younger ones, have little knowledge of the world and how it works, so their minds are open and their ideas are amazing. Not usually logical, but super crazy and creative.

As I was thinking about how jealous I am of children and their imaginations, I, being the book-loving maniac I am, thought of a book called Unwanteds by Lisa McMann. Before I get into why I thought of this book, I’ll give you a general summary.

This story takes place in the future in a dystopian society called Quill that highly discourages any creativity of any kind. When children turn thirteen, they are sorted into three categories: Wanteds, Necessaries, and Unwanteds. The Wanteds are the most intelligent children, the Necessaries are average, and the Unwanteds are children who have disobeyed the law and done something artistic like telling stories or drawing. The Unwanteds are sent off in a bus to be killed in the lake of fire. Or so everyone thinks. While Aaron Stowe becomes a Wanted, his twin brother Alex Stowe becomes an Unwanted condemned to death because he broke the law and drew a picture. At the end of the bus ride, instead of being thrown into a lake of fire, Alex and his fellow Unwanteds are welcomed into a magical world called Artime, which was created by Mr. Today. Here, citizens are free to express themselves and practice their artistic abilities. In Artime, strange creatures and talking statues abound and the Unwanteds learn to use their creativity as weapons…literally.

Quick fangirl moment: Amazing series! It’s not over yet either. The next book come out in the fall. Is this series for ages 8-12? Yep. And do I care? Nope, not really. I think I like these books for younger children because then I don’t have to deal with ridiculous teenage drama/romance/angst blah blah blah. *cough cough*…Oh, I’m not even going to say it! You probably know what series I’m thinking of. Of course, not all teenage books are like this, I’m just complaining about a lot of them. With middle school books, I can focus on the amazingness of the story itself! Alright, fangirl moment over. Back to the topic at hand.

So why did I think of this book? Probably because I admire the creativity of this story. In this story, art is magic. You can fold an origami dragon and bring it to life or draw a door that can take you anywhere. Basically, its my dream come true. It reminds me of when I was a child and I played make-believe with my friends. I would always pretend that I had a magic pencil that would make anything I drew come to life.

I think that children’s ability to notice and admire the most mundane objects also contributes to their imagination. They see and marvel at little details that older people often fail to notice. Like the swirling of colors on a bubble, the fine pattern of veins on a leaf, even the fascinating map work of cracks on an old sidewalk. I mean, sure, we see a rainbow and we think “Wow, look a rainbow! It’s so beautiful! We hardly ever see those!” I’m not saying anything bad about rainbows; I love them, but I think we often overlook the little beautiful details we see everyday, like the sparkle of dew in the grass in the early morning. Believe me when I say that little kids notice these things; I know. I have LOTS of little siblings. Too many in fact (Just kidding guys, I love you!) Anyway, their fascinating ideas and observations never fail to amuse me. I followed their example; now, when I go for walks or have to ride my bike somewhere, I try to spot interesting details in my surroundings. I found that when I slowed down a bit when I rode my bike and paid close attention to details around me, the ride was much less boring. When I did this, I also began to reflect on things I usually don’t even think about. This activity opened my mind. I know you’re probably all very busy, and that’s probably why older people don’t notice little things as much, but next time you go somewhere, pay close attention to details. It’ll make the journey more interesting!

Savvy

Savvy

I know this may sound clique, but everyone does have their own special talent. Some people are athletic, some people are artistic, and others are smart. Of course, these are all very broad categories and not everyone will fit in one of them, but you get the gist. A person usually has something that they are better at than their friends are. In Savvy by Ingrid Law, the Beaumonts also have a wide variety of talent in the family, but on a higher level. Their talents are supernatural. When a person in the Beaumont family turns thirteen, he or she receives their talent, or “savvy” as they call it. Mibs Beaumont is thrilled to finally turn thirteen and discover her power. Unfortunately, her birthday is interrupted when her father gets in a car accident and goes into a coma. Now she hopes that she gets a savvy that can save him. Believing she can help, she and her siblings sneak on a bus headed towards the hospital her father’s staying at. And… the rest is a wonderful adventure that you’ll have to read! As usual, I am recommending a children’s book cuz their awesome! 🙂

So writing a review for Savvy got me thinking about talent among other things and I found this picture.

Savvy Talent

This picture is supposed to represent a special and talented person. I dislike this picture, especially if it’s supposed to apply to a person as a whole. I believe this would only apply if a group of people were evaluated for one talent. Take soccer for instance. If you tested a group of people to see how well they could play soccer, then some people would be much better than others. If you tested the same group for a different talent, let’s say writing, then there would be more talented or “orange” people. Really every person would be orange because they all have talent, just in different areas. You will find your savvy!

I also dislike it when this picture is used to tell people to be different from everybody else. I mean, there’s about seven billion people on this planet so we can’t all be different from each other. That’s fine if that’s who you are, but I hate it when people change who they are to be noticed or get attention. Like how many celebrities do crazy things to get attention. Like how many freshman in high school try to completely change their image to seem cool. It’s sad. Especially since instead of being cool, they’re usually kind of hyper and annoying. I’ve seen it happen to a lot of people. In eighth grade they were cool and normal but in ninth grade they were almost a different person. By tenth grade, most of them become themselves again. I don’t know, maybe that was just at my school. But if you’re a freshman, then don’t change your personality because it’s probably awesome! Basically I’m just saying the clique phrase “Be true to yourself.” But seriously, be true to yourself. Here’s another bumper-sticker worthy phrase that I love:

 

oscar wilde

Yeah, I don’t know how I went from talking about talent to telling you to be yourselves, but hope you liked!

My Life Next Door

My Life Next Door

I know it’s the middle of winter, but I wanted to share this cute summer read. My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick is about two lovers that come from polar opposite families. While Samantha comes from a small not-so-affectionate wealthy home, Jase Garrett comes from a large, rowdy, and loving but poor home. They have lived next door from each other for years, but they do not meet until this summer. Samantha immediately falls in love with Jase and his crazy and affectionate family. She had never been in such a warm loving environment. Even though the Garrett’s didn’t have a lot of money, they were very close and had strong relationships with each other. The only problem was that Samantha’s strict mother would never approve of her dating someone of low standing. Now Samantha has to choose between doing what makes her mom happy or doing what makes her happy.

Awww…I love this book! It’s an adorable summer romance but it’s not mushy and dramatic like I just made it sound. It’s actually super funny and interesting. The Garrett’s are seriously the coolest family ever. (Even if they are fictional.) They don’t need money to be happy. They don’t need to get expensive presents for each other to show that they care.

So this Valentine’s day, do something special with your loved ones. It doesn’t even have to be expensive or cost anything at all. Just do something thoughtful and nice or go somewhere and have fun together!

Haha, yeah this is me.

fake valentine's date

Just kidding! Ok, not really, but I will do something cool with my friends and family! Don’t forget to have a…HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!!!

The Gap

This is an awesome video I recently saw so I just wanted to share it. It’s really inspirational to people who do creative work. I’ve always loved reading and I recently realized that I also love writing. I mean stories, not history papers. Those suck. Anyway, this video inspired me to actually start writing. I’ve been thinking about it for years, but I finally just did it. I realize that even though my work won’t be perfect at first, I can get to the point I want to be at if I keep working at it. I started small; I wrote a story for Fanfiction based off my favorite book series Percy Jackson and the Olympians. If any of you have read this series, I would really appreciate it if you would check it out and review my first short story. And if you haven’t read it, then you should. I don’t care how old you are. My older sister in college used to criticize me for reading ”little kid books” so I got a bit offended. I followed her around reading the first book out loud so she had hear the story, whether she wanted to or not. By the end, I had converted her to a Percy Jackson fan. Mwahaha. (If you’ve read my second post Harry Potter vs. Mom, then you know I have a habit of doing this.) Anyway, sorry for going off topic. My story’s called Aphrodite vs. the Stoll Brothers and my pen name is The Amazon Princess. Here’s the link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10090582/1/Aphrodite-vs-the-Stoll-Brothers

When I saw this video, I also thought of two books I read this summer: A Single Shard and I, Juan de Pareja. It was actually assigned to me as summer homework because they’re easy books to analyze. I had to read a bunch of books like this and basically analyze the heck out of them in several worksheets and essays and blog posts. Unfortunately, I transferred schools at the end of the summer so I wasted my whole break doing a ridiculous amount of homework. On top of all this, when I transferred, I got a brand-new set of summer homework at my new school. (Sorry about my rant guys, I just really felt like complaining about this.) Despite all this, I still love both of these books. I guess reading I, Juan de Pareja and A Single Shard is the one good thing that came out of all of this. Both books are about aspiring artists trying to reach their dreams, but due to their low social standings, they are not allowed to become who they want to be. Here’s a short summary of each in case you want to check them out.

I, Juan de Pareja

I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino is about the life of a man named Juan who is born into slavery. He lives in Spain in the 1600s. In his early childhood, his first masters die and Diego Velazquez, a young painter, inherits him. Juan is content to help his kind new master prepare the elements needed to paint, but he always craves to learn to paint himself. Unfortunately, the rules at the time do not allow slaves to participate in art. Because Juan cannot resist the temptation, he begins to learn to paint by watching his master and secretly practicing in private. Because Diego Velazquez and Juan became good friends, Juan feels guilty about painting in secret. Juan hopes that someday he will be able to freely paint to his heart’s content.A Single Shard

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park is a historical fiction book about a twelve-year old boy named Tree-Ear who lives in eleventh or twelfth century Korea. Tree Ear is a young orphan boy who lives under a bridge with his elderly crippled friend Crane-man. They live in a small village where almost everybody creates pottery for their job.  Tree-Ear is particularly drawn to Min, the most talented potter in the village. Tree-Ear begins to work for Min in return for meals. All Tree-Ear ever wanted to do was to make pottery, but he is not allowed to because he is an orphan. He helps Min every day by doing chores like preparing the clay but he never gets to do the work he really wants. He continues working hard every day in hopes that someday Min will teach will teach him the art of making pottery.

I guess I thought of these two books when I saw The Gap because both Juan and Tree-Ear struggle with their “gap.” They have good taste and they are talented at the art they love, but when they first start, their work isn’t all that good. There is a gap between when they start creating and when they become good at it. It just takes a lot of work to close that gap, but when they do, their work is amazing.