Percy Jackson: The bright light of my childhood

March 12, 2020 — by Rohan Kumar

I don’t have many fond memories of elementary school. I remember my fifth grade teacher taking away a massive stack of comics I had created with my friend (I never saw them again). I remember dissecting a nasty ink-filled squid (something I never want to see again).

But there was one good thing that came out of elementary school: my boy Percy Jackson, the true slayer of the Gorgon Medusa and my favorite mythology teacher. After reading the first book near the end of fifth grade, I couldn’t get enough of Rick Riordan’s hilarious voice and clever incorporation of Greek mythology into history. Quite clearly, George Washington was a son of Athena. How else would you explain his big brain continental army strats?

Although I also enjoyed a lot of different books when I was younger, from “Warriors” to “Harry Potter,” “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” is not just another series. It holds a special place in my heart, since it not only fostered my everlasting interest in fantasy and mythology, but influenced the way I write.

Not only is the plot amazing, with twists and turns and occasionally some cheesy yet comical heroic stunts, but the amount of research put into bringing even the most obscure Greek deities to life is stunning. If they hadn’t been cheerleaders at one of Percy’s many high schools, how would I know what empousai (shape-shifting donkey-legged female vampires) are?

After reading the first series, I couldn’t stop myself from getting more of Rick Riordan. I read through the end of Percy’s story in the “Heroes of Olympus,” then about Egyptian mythology in “The Kane Chronicles” and finally about the brave warriors of Valhalla in  “Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard.”

There were no books left after that, but you think I stopped there? No. I reread every single series over and over again. One time, I started reading “The Lightning Thief” in Spanish to improve my foreign language skills. Unfortunately, reading the book at 1 page per hour just didn’t do the story justice, so I just started reading the book in English again. That was the fifth time I read both the entire “Percy Jackson” and “Heroes of Olympus” series.

As of now, I’ve read Riordan’s entire Greek and Roman series seven or eight times, and I read every new Rick Riordan book as soon as it comes out. I love the characters, I love the writing style and I love the mythology.

I am a Quiz Bowl player, and during rounds I can pull some of the weirdest mythology knowledge out of my brain thanks to Rick Riordan’s books. One question was “Name this fiery river of the Greek underworld,” and immediately I remembered how Percy and Annabeth struggled to survive after falling into Tartarus, drinking the burning water of the Phlegathon to quench their thirst. And how they joked about how it sounded too much like “phlegm” for their liking.

“Percy Jackson and the Olympians” is the best series I’ve ever read, and is likely going to remain that way for the foreseeable future. Unless someone makes a book on Aztec mythology. Rick Riordan, I’m counting on you.

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At UC Berkeley, PhD student Abrar Abidi and research assistant Yvonne Hao have embarked on a goal of creating hand sanitizer for the Bay Area's most vulnerable populations, including the homeless and the incarcerated. Their hand sanitizer includes glycerol mixed with other products, in accordance with a formula from the World Health Organization. So far, they are producing 120 hundreds of gallons of sanitizer each week. Photo courtesy of Roxanne Makasdjian with UC Berkeley.


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