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The Sword of Summer: Book One of Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard by Rick Riordan

THE SWORD OF SUMMER
Book One of Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard
by Rick Riordan 
(Disney Hyperion; $19.99, Ages 9-12)

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Welcome to the first book in Rick Riordan’s new series,
The Sword of Summer: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard.

Imagine this: it’s your 16th birthday. You wake up on a cold Boston street, your friends tell you this evil dude is looking for you … and not because he wants to bring you a birthday present. Your untrustworthy uncle reveals that you are the son of the Norse god, Frey, god of fertility of the land, peace and prosperity. Yeah, right. As the son of Frey you have the power to summon an ancient, long lost sword. Apparently, whoever wields it can do some pretty cool stuff with it. Some pretty scary stuff, too. And just think, all this time it’s been sitting at the bottom of the Charles River. Nasty.

Oh, and that evil dude looking for you? He’s the god Surt, Lord of Muspelheim, the realm of fire. He wants that sword, too. And not just to polish it up. See, he’s got this plan (or maybe it’s something like his destiny) to use the sword to free the wolf Fenir and set doomsday into motion. Wolves … dude, you hate wolves!

Someone has to stop him.

Could this be your destiny?

Ready to romp through the nine worlds of Asgard to prevent the end of the world? Well, before you take off, there’s just one. small. thing.

First, you gotta die.

Whew! So, are your ready for the The Sword of Summer, the first book in Riordan’s new series? I’ve got a feeling you’re hooked! From cold Boston streets, where the homeless (and not so prosperous) Magnus Chase lives, to the halls of Valhalla (the realm of the fallen heroes), prepare yourself for a wild and exhilarating ride through the many strange, wonderful, and sometimes frightening worlds of Asgard. Magnus and his friends, who include a snappy-dressing dwarf, a deaf elf, and a Muslim ex-Valkyrie, race against the clock to prevent a cataclysmic war.

Pursued by Valhalla heroes, giant wolves, and monsters, Magnus and his team bargain with powerful beings and magical creatures in order to prevent Surt from obtaining Frey’s sword, Sumanbrander. Whoever wields it has the power to bring about Ragnarok, the apocalyptic battle between the forces of the gods Odin and Loki.

Percy Jackson fans will snap up this latest series (I can’t keep it on my library shelves). Using his now familiar model, Riordan has readers take a look at an unlikely hero struggling to understand who he is and the events swirling around him. Like all great heroes (Hercules, Gilgamesh, and yes, Percy Jackson), Magnus’ journey throughout the worlds of Asgard bring him a deeper understanding of self and greater empathy for his companions, who have sacrificed much to support him.

Riordan has inventively created a world blending Norse mythology with contemporary culture and peopled it with diverse characters in positive roles. In doing so, he shines a spotlight on contemporary issues such as Muslim culture, homelessness and people with special needs. Filled with nail-biting and dramatic action, it has the same irreverent humor found in Riordan’s earlier series.

Not familiar with Norse mythology? No problem, Riordan provides a handy glossary and other back matter materials to enhance the reader’s understanding of the ancient Norse world.

Visit all the worlds of Rick Riordan for more information on this and his other series.

  • Reviewed by Dornel Cerro

 

 

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Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan

PERCY JACKSON’S GREEK HEROES
Written by Rick Riordan
Illustrated by John Rocco
(Disney-Hyperion; $24.99, Ages 9-12)

 

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You’ve read Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods and loved it, so now you’re ready for Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes and it will not disappoint. Here’s why …

“… We’re going back about 4,000 years to decapitate monsters, save some kingdoms, shoot a few gods in the butt, raid the Underworld, and steal loot from evil people.” (p. ix).

Oh no! Percy Jackson has “sold out” again. For free pepperoni pizza and blue jelly beans, Percy followed up his book on the ancient Greek gods with one on Greek heroes. So, for those who want to be famous monster fighters, Percy advises reading this book to learn from the heroes’ mistakes and to remind oneself that:

… no matter how much you think your life sucks, these guys and gals had it worse.

Percy embellishes the adventures of twelve ancient Greek heroes and heroines with lively commentary, snappy observations, and amusing references to contemporary culture. The irreverent Percy refers to Jason and his Argonauts as the “demigod dream team” (p. 237) and writes that:

Theseus was the original ADHD poster child. He was hyper in diapers (p.149).

Witty chapter titles, such as “Atlanta vs. Three Pieces of Fruit: the Ultimate Death Match,” are sure to keep young readers chuckling and turning the pages. In addition to recounting the tales of well-known heroes like Hercules, Percy shares those of lesser known heroes and heroines. Riordan’s inclusion of two heroines, Otrera and Cyrene, allows readers to see girls and women as heroes, something not often seen in ancient Greek society.

Rocco’s vivid and powerful illustrations will surely catch the attention of even reluctant readers, pulling them into the book. The breath-taking illustrations of Hercules slaying the hydra and Daedalus pulling Apollo’s chariot (on the inside front and back covers) reminded me of the Renaissance masters’ red chalk drawings. Two eye-popping and highly readable maps of the ancient Mediterranean world and the locations of Hercules’ twelve tasks are included along with background reading and websites.

Percy’s final words for would be heroes and heroines:

“… if you’re still determined to be a hero, you are beyond hope. Then again, I’m beyond hope and so are most of my friends, so … welcome to the club (p. 383).

Visit Riordan’s website to learn more about the author of Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes and check out his educational resources and event guides that tie into the popular Percy Jackson series. It’s also worth checking out the Percy Jackson website and Riordan’s blog. To learn more about Rocco’s work visit his website and Goodreads blog.

  • Reviewed by Dornel Cerro
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Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods by Rick Riordan

Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods
Written by Rick Riordan
Illustrated by John Rocco
(Disney-Hyperion, 2014; $24.99. Ages 9-12)

percy-jacksons-greek-gods

 

When approached by a New York publisher to “tell all” about the gods, Percy Jackson asks:

“Can we do this anonymously? Because I don’t need the Olympians mad at me again (Percy Jackson, p.ix).”

Despite his understandable concerns (irking the gods can be dangerous to your health), Percy, in typical teen fashion, humorously narrates nineteen stories about the Greek gods, weaving in snarky comments and observations. Surprisingly, blending these dark and grim stories with irreverent humor makes the myths (a little) less horrific. Here’s Percy’s interpretation of an exchange between Kronos and Rhea concerning their children and …um…. Kronos’ food choices:

“He [Kronos] stuffed Hestia in his mouth and swallowed her whole.
Just like: GULP. She was gone.
As you can imagine Reha completely freaked.
“My baby!” she screamed …”
“Oh wow,” Kronos belched. “My bad …(p. 23).”

Percy’s title for each myth, not only reflects his wit and humor, but lets the reader know how Percy will interpret that myth. Demeter Turns Into Grainzilla puts a spin on a pop culture monster (Godzilla) when Demeter becomes a monster and daughter, Persephone, is abducted by Hades.

I’m ashamed to admit that I laughed while reading stories about kidnapping, infanticide, and cannibalism. Good gods! What kind of mother does that make me?

John Rocco, who has illustrated three of Rick Riordan’s series, is the 2012 Caldecott honor for Blackout. Rocco’s dramatic illustrations depict robust and muscular gods (recalling Classical Greek statuary), powerfully pulsing with light and energy. His strange and grotesque monsters should satisfy horror fans without overly frightening gentler souls. Visit Rocco’s website to learn more about the books he’s illustrated. Also check out his  blog which includes his artwork and sketches and links to painters who have influenced him (including Frank Frazetta and N.C. Wyeth).

At my school library, this middle grade book is already a big hit with Percy Jackson fans, as well as those who love Greek mythology. As both the 5th/6th grade classes are studying Greek mythology, one of the resources I used (in addition to this book) was the publisher’s excellent event kit. Activities include Percy’s Snarky Word Search, Get Your Greek On (trivia), party games, and more. Such a fun-and funny-way to learn about Greek mythology!

Click here to download the teachers’ guide.

– Reviewed by Dornel Cerro

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The House of Hades by Rick Riordan

Cover art for Rick Riordan's The House of Hades

The House of Hades – Heroes of Olympus, Book Four, by Rick Riordan from Disney-Hyperion, 2013.

Rick Riordan’s seven heroes of Olympus are at it again, fighting monsters and trying to save the world with a little help (and hinderance) from the gods, says MaryAnne Locher, today’s reviewer.

At the end of Rick Riordan’s The Mark of Athena, Percy and Annabeth have fallen into the depths of Tartarus and must find the Doors of Death in order to leave. In Riordan’s latest, The House of Hades – Heroes of Olympus, Book Four (Disney-Hyperion/Disney Publishing Worldwide, $19.99, ages 9-12), the other five heroes have been instructed by Percy to not only return the Athena-Parthenos statue to abate a war between Camp Half-Blood and Camp Jupiter, but to also find and seal the earthly side of the Doors of Death, preventing the rise of the evil Earth Mother, Gaea, and her league of underworld followers.

The reader will be reacquainted with monsters from previous books, as Percy and Annabeth have to face those they’ve slain in the past as they walk through their own personal Hell. But this is far from a rehash of books past, as some of the darkest and deadliest monsters and gods are introduced for the first time. Riordan doesn’t stop with imaginary monsters, he also makes the young heroes, as well as readers, question themselves and face their own personal demons in this very diverse book of love, friendship, and the fight between good and evil. Hazel is at a crossroads, and her decision affects the outcome of the quest. Nico faces being different than his friends. Frank, Leo, and the others all have to stretch their attitudes and abilities to save the world.

Will the seven accomplish their goals? Will Percy and Annabeth be trapped at the Doors of Death for all eternity if the doors are sealed? Well, you’ll have to read the book and find out for yourselves. To tell you would be just plain evil.

Watch The House of Hades book trailer, read excerpts and download activities by clicking here.

 

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For Rick Riordan Fans

Today’s review comes courtesy of Julia, a 10-year-old 5th grader who loves polar bears, designing clothes and books, books, books. Her father queried her about the latest novel she read from best-selling author Rick Riordan.

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The Mark of Athena (Heroes of Olympus, Book 3) by Rick Riordan ($19.99, Hyperion Books for Children, ages 9-11).

How would you describe the story to someone?

This story is about Percy, Hazel and Frank meeting Annabeth, Leo, Piper in New Rome and their journey to Rome.

What did you like the best in the story?

I liked that it is from each character’s point-of-view but not narrated by them, like the Red Pyramid books, and it’s filled with adventures, like when they met Narcissus, Echo and all of the love-sick nymphs.

Was there anything you disliked about the book?

The cliffhanger ending because I don’t like being left hanging.

Who was your favorite character in the book?   

Annabeth – because I love how she is smart, crafty and fierce, and she stays strong in the worst situations.  And Hazel because I love her back story.

Would you recommend Heroes of Olympus to people if they liked earlier Rick Riordan books?

Yes, they would like this one, too.

 

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