Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Series Review

By DJD

One book series I have always enjoyed reading is Percy Jackson and the Olympians, or PJO for short, written by Rick Riordan. It has a simple premise: Greek Mythology is alive and well, and roaming through New York City and elsewhere on a day-to-day basis. But as the books continue, you realize that this series is much deeper and more intriguing than it seems at first glance.

Book 1: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief (2005)

This is the first book in the series, and acts as an introduction to the world of modern Demigods, a.k.a. The “Riordanverse”. We start by meeting the main character, Percy Jackson, and are shortly introduced to multiple characters, such as Grover Underwood, Percy’s best friend, Mr. Brunner, the ‘cool’ history teacher at Yancy Academy, the school Percy goes to, and Nancy Bobofit, the class bully.

As the first chapters continue, we listen to a recounting of who, exactly, Percy Jackson believes he is. However, weird things start happening on a class field trip, and Percy starts to think about all the strange things that have happened to him throughout his life. And on the way back to his apartment at the end of the year, he sees something… strange. Something he can’t quite understand.

As the story goes on, we meet a plethora of characters: Sally Jackson, Percy’s mother, Gabe Ugliano, (yes that’s his real name) his jerk step-father, Annabeth Chase, a blond-haired brainiac daughter of Athena, and many more. Identities are revealed, such as Grover being a Satyr, and monsters are fought. An oracle gives a mysterious quest, three are chosen, and a crazy adventure ensues. At the end of the day(er, book), everything ends out ok… or does it…

Book 2: The Sea of Monsters (2006)

This book starts off with a foreboding dream of Grover, Percy’s best friend, running from something, muttering about how he needs to warn them about something. After a chase, Percy wakes with a start. His mom calls him out of bed for his last day of school, and after a breakfast of blue eggs and waffles, he goes down to class. Here we meet Tyson, a homeless kid whom Percy and his Mom have a soft spot for, Matt Sloan, the school bully at Merriweather academy, and a few others.

After a monster attack during PE, with Annabeth showing up and, along with Tyson and Percy, taking out the monsters, they hitch a ride to Camp Half-Blood on the Chariot of Damnation and discover that not all is going well at Camp. A poisoned pine tree, a careless new head counselor, and many other things, and Percy, Annabeth, and Tyson have to sneak onto a monster-infested cruise ship to find Grover, the Golden Fleece, and, most importantly, the answers to what is happening around them.

As the book continues, we see the questers defeat countless monsters and win the day! However, at the end of the book, something happens. Something… strange.

Book 3: The Titan’s Curse (2007)

A few months after SOM, we see Percy, Annabeth, and Thalia Grace, daughter of Zeus, head to a military school where Grover has found two new demigods: Nico and Bianca di Angelo, children of Hades.

After a surprise encounter with a Manticore ending with Annabeth getting kidnapped, the gang is saved by Artemis, goddess of the Hunt. Bianca becomes a hunter and they get a ride to camp in Apollo’s Maserati/Magic School Bus/Sun Chariot. Once there, they get a Prophecy from the Oracle while playing Capture-the-Flag, and leave on a quest with the team of 5 being Percy, Grover, Bianca, Thalia, and Zoë Nightshade.

Along the way to save Annabeth and Artemis, who was also kidnapped a bit after Annabeth, they encounter living skeletons, (the human and kitty cat kind) monsters of all shapes and sizes, gods and goddesses, and much more. Once they find Annabeth, they fight an intense battle, with Percy having to hold up the sky, Luke Castellean (who’s evil btw) making an appearance and going hand-to-hand combat, knife on sword, and Zoё being tragically killed by her own father, the Titan Atlas, when defending Artemis, her leader. The battle seems to be taking a turn for the worse, however, when hundreds of monsters march up from Luke’s cruise ship. Hope seems lost, when… Well, you’ll have to read the book to see what happens! 

Book 4: Battle of the Labyrinth (2008)

In this book, we start with Percy going to see a new school he’s going to- Goode High School, where Sally Jackson’s boyfriend(and Percy’s future step-dad), Paul Blofis, works as a teacher. However, it wasn’t meant to be, as Percy gets ambushed by two Empousa, the entire band room at Goode explodes in flame, with Percy fleeing to Camp Half-Blood. When there, they meet Quintus, the new combat instructor, and Mrs. O’Leary, his tamed Hellhound.

After introducing himself to the duo, Percy heads to lunch. Afterwards, before Capture-the-Flag, Annabeth and Grover show up at his cabin, and they discuss what they need to do: Plan a quest into the Labyrinth. After a near-fatal game of CtF, they receive a prophecy from the Oracle and set off in a group of 4: Percy, Annabeth, Grover, and Tyson. They meet gods, monsters, and demigods, face tough trials, and traverse the confusing territory of the labyrinth.

Some of the challenges faced are as follows: Percy facing the 3-bodied rancher, Geryon, in battle, Annabeth facing a Sphinx in a duel of intellect, Grover and Tyson tracking down Pan, god of the Wild, and Percy taking on a near-immortal gladiator in an arena of earth, and the gang + Nico di Angelo and Quintus, now revealed to be Daedalus, taking on a whole horde of monsters in the center of the Labyrinth.

They see Luke taken over by Kronos and almost kill Percy (it’s ok though Rachel Elizabeth Dare [a mortal who can see through the Mist] hits Kronos in the eye with a hairbrush), and Percy almost dies again after exploding Mt. Saint Helens to kill the Telkhines trying to kill him and let Annabeth get away, and ends up releasing Typhon, a massive giant that can destroy the gods. At the end of the book, Daedalus sacrifices himself to destroy the Labyrinth, and the majority of Kronos’s forces along with it.

 Book 5: The Last Olympian (2010)

The final book in the series, the finale of this quintuplet of books, The Last Olympian is a fast-paced, incredible last book for this series. It has all our favorite characters in a group of battles to the finish, with events such as Percy taking a dip in the River Styx to give him immortality, Charles Beckendorf, son of Hephestus, sacrificing himself to destroy the Princess Andromeda, Kronos’s main attack force, in a fiery explosion, Percy going blade-to-blade in a battle against Hyperion, Titan of light, and weakening him enough that the Satyrs could turn him into a massive oak tree in Central Park, Silena Beauregard and Clarisse La Rue, daughters of Aphrodite and Ares respectively taking on the drakon that Kronos released on Manhattan and killing it, and Annabeth going hand-to-hand, scythe-on-knife against Kronos himself, and Luke making the bravest choice of using Annabeth’s knife to kill himself, effectively killing Kronos as well, and saving the world with one choice. 

In conclusion, this series is amazing, and you should really read it. Rick Riordan is still putting out books today, with his most recent series, Trials of Apollo, finished up last fall. (I would recommend reading this series before that one, though.) Other series I recommend for kids my age (12+) are:

(Dates are when the first book was released)

Thank you for reading!

Percy Jackson Paperback Book Set

Cooking Is Fun

By Izzy

     Cooking is a great way to use your time. It helps you learn new skills and is lots of fun. There are many ways to find recipes. Lots of people have made recipes and it is not hard to find them. I like to use cook books but you can also find them online.

For cook books I recommend the Complete Children’s Cookbook. It’s my favorite. I think that this is a very good cook book and it has some delicious recipes. I have made a strawberry cake from it. It was lots of fun to make. It tasted delicious. The book is very easy to use and the instructions are easy to follow.

    I also used Raddish Kids Kits. They come in small boxes and they are lots of fun. They bring tools for you to use and they come with recipe cards. One of my favorites is the spring green risotto. It is delicious and pretty easy to make. It is easy to read and very enjoyable to make. There are pictures to look at to help follow along. Raddish kits are lots of fun. Another program like Raddish is KidStir and they have fun recipes and kits also.

      One of the other things I did was the Girl Scouts cooking badge for Juniors. It is fun because you get to use your creativity and make your own meal. You also work on using the tools and learn lots about cooking. If you are a Girl Scout I would recommend doing it. 

       You can learn lots of things from cooking. You can learn how to use the tools, what type of foods are healthier than others and even which foods are fastest to cook and which take a long time. 

    Another fun thing I like to make is chocolate covered strawberries. These are easy to make and lots of fun. All you do is melt some chocolate chips in a bowl, add some coconut oil, and stir it around. Wash the strawberries well and then dip them in the chocolate. Finally, you put them on a piece of wax paper on a baking sheet and put them in the fridge to harden.these are very tasty and lots of fun. 

       I don’t have a favorite thing to cook because everything is fun but I do like making homemade tortillas and tacos. I think that cooking is lots of fun and everybody should try it and have a good time.


Becoming a Writer

Untitled design

I’m an author. I love coming up with ideas to write about and I love bringing other ideas to life through written words. There was a time in my life that I didn’t think I could be a writer because I didn’t enjoy making things up. Writing fiction was not my thing. When I was in sixth grade I took creative writing as an elective and the teacher told me over and over again that my writing was wrong. My ideas weren’t good. I didn’t set the scene or perfect the plot or use the right voice. She crushed my writing spirit. But I kept going. I never shared anything I wrote because I assumed everyone would think it was terrible, like she did.

Eventually I started sharing my poetry. My friends liked it. And I actually paid to have my poetry published in anthologies stuffed with thousands of other authors – who also paid. I think you’ll find me on page 537, column 2, third row down. I kept writing.

Then something happened. I started college at 19 attending off and on at local community colleges. I avoided English 101 for a while. When I finally registered for it, I was excited (because I like to write), but I expected to get a poor grade and a lot of criticism. When I turned in that first writing assignment – an informational essay about computers and education – I shrugged it off immediately. I did my best. The day she handed the assignment back I was completely ready for the bad grade that was heading my way. But it never came. Instead, I was shocked to see an A+ with curly red comments about being well thought out and nicely structured. Huh. Maybe I’m not terrible.

Something else happened. I remembered a day in second grade. I came home from school and set up a spot on the floor in front of the TV with my markers and a pad of pastel-colored paper. I wrote my own story of the first Thanksgiving, complete with pictures of corn and Indians. And I liked it. I read it to everyone. I hung it up. Eventually I transferred it to my scrapbook. It’s still there. As I remembered this, I realized what my path was – I’m a nonfiction writer. That’s what I was meant to do. It doesn’t matter that I can’t make up stories about unicorns and furry trolls in faraway lands. That’s not necessary for my journey.

I did eventually branch out to making things up. Actually, my last book was creative nonfiction. It was my job to take the characters in the story through time to meet famous scientists who developed advances in electricity like Ben Franklin, Nikola Tesla, and Michael Faraday. It’s one of my favorite projects so far. I can’t wait for that one to be in print so I can put it on my bookshelf.

Over the last few months I’ve received two of my latest books in the mail, and I don’t think that is ever going to get boring. Opening a package to find a book that I wrote, and then watching my kids read it?! Whoa. So mind blowing. And I think back to that teacher who thought I was terrible and sat me down for a conference after class about how my writing just wasn’t very good. How many times her voice echoed in my head, discouraging and condescending. I kept trying. Secretly. But I kept trying.

Today, I get to be role model for my kids. I may not write the next Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, but I wanted to be an author, and here I am with four books under my belt. I did it. So now when I tell them they can be whatever they want if they work hard for it, they know it’s true because I did it.

Do you have a writing journey? I’d love for you to share it with me!

Benefits of Being a Book Hoarder

In honor of National Young Readers Week, I wanted to share some thoughts on books.

Everyday I walk through the house collecting the books lying around in the kitchen, the bathroom, on the couch. You name it, we’ve probably got a book there. Sometimes as I try to find shelf space for the misplaced books I catch myself mumbling about having too many books. Hahaha! I get a good laugh every time because having too many books is a good thing and there’s no way I’m downsizing.

There are actually benefits to having too many books.  I should clarify that the books should be quality reading material with an educational element of some sort. A bookshelf full of crime drama or erotica is great if that’s what you’re into, but definitely don’t contribute to the benefits I’ll be referring to here.

First, having books means your kids always have access to reading material. Even if they read the same book twenty times, they are going to learn something new from it as they grow. Different ages retain and comprehend reading material differently.

Second, you can teach your kids about primary sources rather than going straight to Google, Siri, or Alexa for answers. When my kids ask what life was like when there were no cities and people were looking for new land to settle, we whip out books like Boomtown or Little House on the Prairie. And we read. And we look at pictures. And we talk about what life might have been like. What the world looked like before houses were crunched together in grid patterns. When a wild animal in the neighborhood was an opportunity instead of a nuisance. When you planted your food instead of buying GMO corn at the grocery store.

Third, books become handy resources for a variety of learning opportunities. I found this book at the library bookstore called From Sea to Shining Sea for $3. It’s a treasury of American folklore and folk songs and includes everything from Native American culture to the Industrial Revolution to America’s favorite pastime – baseball. We can read Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech and the lyrics to Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind. We can read a poem about Harriet Tubman and how she risked her life 19 times to guide hundreds of slaves to freedom. For $3 we got a book we can use over and over again. For many subjects. For years to come.

If you have a house full of books, it’s hard for kids to avoid reading. It makes it hard for you to avoid reading, too. That being said, some kids do need to be encouraged to read. But if you’ve got shelves of books covering a variety of subjects, there’s got to be something interesting that young readers will gravitate to. Drones, extreme sports, National Parks, rocks, horses, writing your own stories, Shakespeare, mythology – we’ve got tons of subjects in our nonfiction collection. Our chapter books and picture books are also overflowing from the shelves. When you have books available that you consistently share and read with your kids, they will eventually learn to read. And some of them will even grow to love it.

For more information about National Young Readers Week check out the Pizza Hut Book It! program, and pay a visit to your local library. Happy reading!

 

Adventures for Junior Paleontologists

I took my dino-loving kids to the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology. They have monthly Discovery Days and this month’s theme was Making Monsters: Science in Art. It was our first time to the museum and we instantly fell in love.

For $3 per person we received admission to the museum and got to participate in several awesome activities that blended science and art. We listened to a paleoartist, Brian Engh, talk about how he works with fossils and paleontologists to create the artistic renderings of what they believe the dinosaur looked like and the environment it lived in. What a cool job!

The first activity was about how to draw dinosaurs. We chose from several step-by-step drawing worksheets to sketch the dino of our choice. Next we cut out tangrams and arranged them on the page to create our own dinosaur. Then we chose from a selection of cut-out fossil body segments that we pieced together to create a new dinosaur. Finally, we were given a scavenger hunt list with different Pokémon characters. We had to find the fossil in the museum of the dinosaur that inspired each Pokémon character. Super cool. My Poke-fans loved this part.

  

The Alf is a fantastic location with imaginative hands-on activities that my junior paleontologists enjoyed. We will go back and I highly recommend it. Such a treat on a Saturday afternoon.

And because we can’t get enough fossils, we went to the Homeschool day at the La Brea Tar Pits a few days later. There were very few activities this time around so I was not as impressed, but homeschool day gives us a chance to go down into the Observation Pit which is usually closed unless you’re on a guided tour. We love it down there!

Resources for Junior Paleontologists:

 

 

 

Informational Text Worksheets

informational text worksheets

My kids love to read. Chapter books, picture books, comics, nonfiction. You name it, they’ll read it. Sometimes when I am going over an assignment for school, my son will ask, “Can’t I just go read?” Sometimes I say no and require that the assignment gets completed, but other times, I say “What the heck, go for it.” I mean, really, he’s reading. My response to the “go ahead and read” theory is that I need something that he can put down on paper when he’s done reading to show that he is learning and making progress in critical thinking and writing skills. So I am putting together a few different worksheets that I can print up for him to complete when I decide that reading time is over. So far, I have made a 3-2-1 Summary worksheet and a Main Idea & Details worksheet. These are mostly to be used with informational text, but can also be used with other books with educational elements. For example, my son reads the Extreme Adventures chapter book series and these include informative passages about animals and geographic locations, so these worksheets could work.

We read a lot of short nonfiction books too, so these are great companion worksheets that can be completed quickly after independent reading or story time, when we read together as a family. For my little one who is four, I have her write a few words about the subject, like the names of the animals or planets, then I ask her to draw a picture about what we read. I always write the words for her on a separate piece of paper, but she copies it onto her own page and then draws her pictures.

You can download the worksheets here for free!

3-2-1 Summary: 3.2.1 Summary

Main Idea & Details: Main idea

New! Who, What, When Worksheet: Who.What.When.Where.How.Why

 

See our nonfiction and picture book selection here.

Learning to Read

This year my 4-year-old is very excited about preschool. I have made an extra effort to ensure that she has her own special work to do for preschool. Sometimes it’s as simple as pattern block puzzles or color by numbers. Other times, she gets special projects like mixed-media art and using buttons to spell her name.

One of her favorite activities though, is learning to read. When my son was in kinder his teacher gave him a sight word ring and we use that to practice some of our words. Then she uses the tiles from All About Spelling to copy the words onto the board. But what she enjoys most is Teach Your Monster to Read.

Start to Read Pack

Teach Your Monster to Read is an online game that pairs up with the Start To Read pack from Usborne Books & More. The game is free and anyone can register for an account to play, but it works seamlessly with the Start To Read pack. The pack comes with 8 beginning readers, a parent guide, and an alphabet poster to track our letter-learning progress. The readers are dual readers, meaning that the page on the left is meant to be read by the parent and the page on the right is read by the child. The child pages focus on letter sounds and identifying letter combinations that were taught through activities in the parent guide and through practice on Teach Your Monster to Read.

teach your monster to read

My daughter could already identify most of the letters when we started the program, except for the tricky ones that look different in certain fonts, but this has been our first real practice in learning the phonemic sounds. This is new territory for me as my son learned to read without any real instruction. He told me he could read one day and that was that. Now at age 7, he reads well beyond his age. I don’t have an educators background so some teaching experiences seem scary, but the Start to Read pack has been a great guide. I don’t have to guess what to teach, it is laid out for me. I also purchased the Phonics Workbooks and these are fun ways to reinforce learning the letter sounds while using hands-on interactive activities.

phonics workbook 3     phonics workbook 4

I’ve heard of several other programs that I am interested in trying for reading, but for the time being, I am very happy with how this program is working for us. And when my daughter asks me if we can practice reading, it makes my heart smile.

What is your favorite reading program to use with your kids?

 

 

5 Math Books That Make Math Fun

math collage

Math is fun! Studies show that math is one of the most popular subjects among kids in preschool and elementary grades. But the new math curriculum, and math for older students shows a decrease in popularity. But even if your elementary student doesn’t like math, these books will make math so much more fun. With these books they’ll be learning math without even realizing it.

this is not a math bookThis Is Not a Math Book:   Art and math collide as children are encouraged to doodle and pattern their way through number-based activities. Learn amazing facts about math while creating artistic designs.

First Illustrated Math Dictionary: We actually get this book out intentionally. We have used it to make 3-D shapes, draw reflections (symmetry), practice using different units of measure, create number lines, and so much more. Don’t let the words “Math Dictionary” scare you. This is a must have for every early elementary student.

How BHow big is a millionig is a Million?: Pipkin is my favorite penguin and this story takes him on a journey to find out just how big a million is. He discovers lots of things about numbers and quantity on his adventure and the pocket at the back of the book includes a poster to give readers a visual of just how big a million is.

Lift-the-Flap Times Tables: Yep. It says times tables right on the front, but kids love lifting flaps and finding out what’s underneath. They’ll keep flipping and keep reading, which means they’ll keep learning. Easy and fun all in one.

50 brain games50 Brain Games: Flashcards, not a book, but all included in one box with a dry erase pen. This set includes lots of number and logic puzzles that keep minds working and learning. Who knew word problems could be fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Book List: Reference Books We Love

reference books

One of the things that we have an abundance of is reference books. Dictionaries, encyclopedias, and subject specific reference guides are some of our most used books. And the benefits extend beyond homeschool. Every student should have access to reference books that are easy to read and understand. Our reference books help us fully understand concepts and subjects we aren’t familiar with. This year I expect we’ll be using our reference books even more as we get into more difficult subjects. I’ve even got a list of books that I’ll be ordering to add to our collection. Here is the short list of the essential reference guides that every elementary student should have.

Illustrated Dictionary – 288 pages with over 1000 illustrations. Inside the Illustrated Dictionary you’ll find a user’s guide, parts of speech and their roles in forming sentences, hints and guidelines for writing and spelling, and a brief history of the English language.

Children’s Encyclopedia  – 320 pages with over 1,500 images. Packed full of information and includes hands on activities and experiments plus downloadable images, quizzes and activity pages. Features all the world maps and flags with facts and records and over 600 hand-picked internet links for additional exploration.

Encyclopedia of World History – 416 pages of history from prehistoric times to the 21st century. Includes a 12,000 year illustrated timeline, over 100 maps, and amazing facts and illustrations. We use this as our history book and will be developing several lessons from it over the course of the year. This book also includes Usborne Quicklinks and additional links to hand-picked websites featuring information and activities related to in-text topics.

The Science Encyclopedia – 448 pages of science with over 140 experiments, activities and observations. Brilliant images throughout the book with information on everything from atoms to energy to plant life. Quizzes for each section are available in the back of the book plus additional Quicklinks and internet resources. We love this book and are using it as our science book this year.

First Illustrated Math Dictionary – This book clearly explains math concepts, breaking them down into the most basic elements and helping you understand math step-by-step. This is for the early grades from pre-k to 3rd or 4th grade and uses fun illustrations and easy to understand terminology. If you have a student who has a hard time in math, this book is for you. If your student is 2nd grade or above, consider the next level up: Illustrated Elementary Math Dictionary. Just as fun and just as helpful but geared for 8 and up.

Author of the Month: Barb Rosenstock

author of the month barb rosenstock

So I was walking through the library – quickly – because I already had a bag full of books and my shoulder was about to fall off. But this book caught my eye, so I swiped it on the way past and added it to the load. Ben Franklin’s Big Splash. My son likes learning about Ben and Tom and George, so I figured he might like this one. I was right. We all love this one. So much so that I was prompted to go back to the library a few days later to return some others and search for more Barb Rosenstock books. We found more, we love them all, and I’m about to tell you why.

Ben Franklin’s Big Splash tells the story of Ben as a boy and how he came to find a love of solving problems and creating solutions. It speaks of how he failed, but didn’t let the failure define him. Instead he used it to propel him to find new solutions. It lists his major achievements and includes a timeline of his life. And then I found her website. When I searched for Barb Rosenstock I found something that every homeschooling parent and teacher loves – Educator’s Guides! Yep, all of Barb’s books have educator’s guides that offer activities and lesson plans to help you and your kids learn even more and get the most out of these amazing books. I’m in love.

Here is the list of the other books we picked up at the library and we love each and every one of them.

The Noisy Paintbox (Vasya Kandinsky)

The Streak (Joe DiMaggio)

Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library

The Camping Trip That Changed America (Roosevelt & John Muir)

 

Pick up some of Barb Rosenstock’s books and then visit her webpage here to get the educator’s guides. You can also order her books directly from links on her website.

 

Book cover images courtesy of Amazon.com