A Guide to Percy Jackson's 'Greek Gods' and 'Greek Heroes'

Books on mythology are narrated through the voice of a snarky middle-schooler

High contrast image of Poseidon's trident at sea
fergregory / Getty Images

Rick Riordan's "Percy Jackson's Greek Gods" and "Percy Jackson's Greek Heroes" should appeal to young fans of his popular "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" series. Riordan, a writer of adult mysteries before he started composing middle-grade fantasies, was exposed to the "voice" of middle school students as a teacher of English and history. His funny, sarcastic stories of Greek gods and heroes, well grounded in Greek mythology, are aimed at 9- to 12-year-olds with an interest in Greek myths.

The illustrations for both books were done by 2012 Caldecott honoree John Rocco, whose work here includes dozens of dramatic full-page and spot illustrations in each book. "Greek Heroes" also includes two large maps, "The World of Greek Heroes" and "Hercules’s 12 Stupid Tasks," that look like they were created by young Percy, a dyslexic middle-school student who was first featured in Riordan’s "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" and, of course, is himself a myth. The stories are told in his voice.

Riordan's previous "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" fantasy series has won numerous awards and honors. The first book in the series, The Lightning Thief, won 17 State Library Association Readers' Choice Awards and was an ALA Notable Children’s Book for 2005.

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Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes

Percy Jackson's Greek Heroes
Disney-Hyperion Books

"Percy Jackson's Greek Heroes" is a big, beautiful book about Greek mythology told from Percy's perspective. Percy puts a contemporary spin on the traditional tales of 12 Greek heroes; Perseus, Psyche, Phaethon, Otrera, Daedalus, Theseus, Atalanta, Bellerophon, Cyrene, Orpheus, Hercules, and Jason. “No matter how much you think your life sucks, these guys and gals had it worse," Percy says. "They totally got the short end of the Celestial stick.”

In his Introduction, Percy accurately describes what is to come: “We’re going back about four thousand years to decapitate monsters, save some kingdoms, shoot a few gods in the butt, raid the Underworld, and steal loot from evil people.”

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Percy Jackson's Greek Gods - An Overview

Percy Jackson's Greek Gods cover art
Disney-Hyperion Books

Riordan's "Percy Jackson's Greek Gods," as told again In the snarky voice of Percy Jackson, delves into the many gods found in Greek mythology. He begins with the story of how the world was made and includes other tales about Demeter, Persephone, Hera, Zeus, Athena, Apollo, and others.

Percy, who is described as a demigod—half human and half mortal—talks about his father, Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea. “I’m biased," says Percy. "But if you’re going to have a Greek god for a parent, you couldn’t do better than Poseidon.”

As in his "Greek Heroes" book, Riordan’s use of Percy’s voice here turns Riordan's versions of the myths into stories to which his young audience can relate. For example, this is how he introduces the Greek god Ares: “Ares is that guy. The one who stole your lunch money, teased you on the bus, and gave you a wedgie in the locker room….If bullies, gangsters, and thugs prayed to a god, they’d pray to Ares.” 

Despite the juvenile tone, the stories have a strong foundation in traditional Greek mythology.