Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Percy Jackson and the Olympians

Percy Jackson and the Olympians is a series of books by Rick Riordan that I've been reading. Actually, I've been reading the first book out loud to an English class I attend to support one of my students. It's a pretty fun book about a kid who lives in NYC and keeps getting kicked out of schools because his ADHD and dyslexia get him into trouble. Then he finds out he's the son of a Greek god. In the world of this book the Greek gods are now in the US because they follow the height of Western Civilization around (which should put them in Sweden, I would think). For instance, you can access Mount Olympus by going to the 600th floor of the Empire State Building and Hades by going to a Los Angeles night club. It's a pretty smart book with some good insider jokes.

The disability connection is that Percy's dyslexia is due to the fact that he is supposed to be reading ancient Greek instead of modern English. His ADHD is blamed on the fact that he's supposed to be out on the battle field, not in a classroom. Since there are many, many demi-gods in the world of the book who are similarly diagnosed the implication is that all kids with ADHD and/or dyslexia may be the offspring of a god.

That's a pretty cool twist for an author to add in. If you're a kid struggling to read it's probably nice to imagine that you're really supposed to be fighting the minotaur rather than getting sent to the principal again. This take on disability misses the point though. Kids with a disability won't be cured and they're not going away. They're here to stay just like they are. What's slightly disturbing is that there's a way in which this book fantasizes their disappearance- though with a positive twist. The reality is that there are kids who can't sit still for long or struggle with reading and they still count as humans. So while it's fun to think of a "last shall be first" world like the one presented here, it's better yet to imagine a world in which atypical kids are are accepted for who they are.

That said, I'm 2/3's of the way through the 2nd book and I'm enjoying it quite a bit.

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