I just came back from seeing the Percy Jackson movie with 6 boys and my BFF. (Two were mine, one was hers.) You know what I'm talkin' about, the film adaptation of the first book, The Lightening Thief, Rick Riordan's highly popular series where a lonely boy who has difficulties both at home and in school is transformed when he learns that he is the son of Poseidon and needs to help stop a war between the Gods. Realistic fiction, right? The book's premise is that our weaknesses (loneliness, impulsiveness) can turn into our strengths (unwavering loyalty, warrior reflexes)
Hmmm, where have I seen that theme before, perhaps in A Wrinkle In Time?
It is one of the great literary tropes, used time and again to tell a compelling story. This series is wonderful for kids when they're constantly learning all about the boundaries within themselves and their mortal, fallible parents.
My BFF had planned this extravaganza - after the movie we were taking 6 of the boys back over to her apartment for Camp Half Blood where they would make shields, become demi-Gods and go on a treasure hunt, to be followed by the consuming of blue food and other games, movies. And if there's time, maybe a little bit of sleep.
I read all five books out loud with my guys, so it was with great anticipation that we entered the movie theater an hour early, claiming almost an entire row of seats. What would be the same, what would be different? I usually don't like to see movies if I've really enjoyed the book, but movies are a completely different medium, a different experience. I like the Harry Potter books better than the movies, but I have to say, I like The Lord of the Rings as movies better than the books. (I can't wait to see Return of the King with the boys, but we are still in the middle of reading it out loud together. No cheating!)
I was a little disappointed that the characters were teenagers instead of tweens - it added a different tension to the movie than was in the first book which grows organically in the series, and lessened the sweetness of Percy being thrust into heroic action. In the first book he is more vulnerable as a twelve year old, and not a studly teenager, as he was portrayed in the movie. But it didn't stop BFF's son from joyfully exclaiming: "It's the best movie I've ever seen!" I adore his enthusiasm, his ability to jump in and place himself within the story, enough to make the movie be "the best."
A few of the others were more lukewarm in their reaction. They were disappointed that so much had been left out of the book. When I asked them if they thought that the themes were still there, (which they were) one of them looked at me savagely and said, "there is no point."
"No point?" I asked incredulously. "Don't they get from point A to point B? Isn't there a goal?"
My young friend acquiesced, and then they argued in their nine-year-old intellectual one-upmanship about what the goals actually were.
"The goal is to save his mother!"
"No, the goal is to get Zeus' lightening bolt, and prove he didn't steal it," said another.
"The goal is to meet his father!"
Such wonderful, different points of view! "Don't you think those are all right, guys?" I asked.
"Our hero, Percy, needs to do all of these things. Now, if you were going to Camp Half-Blood," I say, following BFF's directive to get them in the mood for her creative exploration into Greek mythology, "what God would be your parent?"
"Apollo!" two chime in.
Not one boy claimed Athena, Persephone or Aphrodite - I guess that nine-year-old boys still see their mothers as immortal! Or, they see us as who we are and love us even though we're not.
Sweet! For now . . .