Percy Jackson & The Olympians: From the mind of a middle school teacher

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“Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief” is directed by Chris Columbus (Harry Potter), and stars Logan Lurman, Uma Thurman, and Pierce Brosnan. The film is being released February 12 by 20th Century Fox.

Author Rick Riordan, who taught Greek Mythology for a many years in middle school in California and Texas, came up with the idea for the first Percy Jackson book, which led to four additional novels and a huge fan base numbering in the millions, after reading the sagas of the ancient Greek heroes as bedtime stories to his son, Haley.

“When I ran out of myths, my son became disappointed,” the author relates on his website. “He asked me if I could make up some new stories with the same characters. I remembered a creative writing project I used to do with my sixth graders, which allowed them to create their own demigod hero, the son or daughter of any god they wanted, while having them describe a Greek-style quest for that hero.

“Off the top of my head, I made up Percy Jackson and told Haley all about his quest to recover Zeus’ lightning bolt in modern day America. It took about three nights to tell the whole story and, when I was done, Haley told me I should write it out as a book.”

Those three nights ultimately became a yearlong odyssey for Riordan (pronounced Rye-or-dan) in completing his first book for young readers (he was already an established author, having written several prior novels, his first being the Tres Navarre private eye thriller, Big Red Tequila, in 1997).

“I picked a few of my sixth, seventh and eighth graders and asked them if they’d be willing to ‘test drive’ the novel,” Riordan continues. “I’m used to showing my work to adults, and had no idea if kids would like Percy. I finally understood what it must be like for them, turning in an essay to me and waiting to get their grades back! Fortunately, the kids really liked it. They had some good suggestions, too.”

The book was published in 2005, but it would be another five years before Hollywood would bring the first of the Percy Jackson stories to the screen. While the studio explored turning Riordan’s first book into a movie, the author continued the series by penning a new novel each year between 2006 and 2009.