“The Percy Jackson Problem”

January 23, 2015 | 1 book mentioned 3

Riordan’s books prompt an uneasy interrogation of the premise underlying the ‘so long as they’re reading’ side of the debate—at least among those of us who want to share Neil Gaiman’s optimistic view that all reading is good reading, and yet find ourselves by disposition closer to the Tim Parks end of the spectrum, worried that those books on our children’s shelves that offer easy gratification are crowding out the different pleasures that may be offered by less grabby volumes.” In an essay for The New Yorker, Rebecca Mead considers questions about what children should be reading through the lens of the Percy Jackson series.

is a staff writer for The Millions. She lives in New York and every so often writes things at kaulielewis.wordpress.com.


  1. I so agree with Matt and Neil Gaiman, having misspent my youth reading tons and tons of comic books (not graphic novels, but Caspar and Richie Rich and Fantastic 4, in all their flat, cheerful glory) and “abridged classics”, and just generally cheesy mid-century kid’s books now long out of print (much of it woefully un-P,C: “Pale-Face Redskins” was a particular favorite. I blush.) Not to mention “de-classified” textbooks from the 30’s and 40’s that my teacher dad brought home whenever the school board ordered newer ones, also pretty cretinous. And leave us not forget TV and movie novelizations — every single Star Trek and “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and Girl From U.N.C.L.E. we could find. The pleasures of cheap mass-market paperbacks — none of that Caldecott stuff for us!

    I could go on and on with our many down-market enthusiasms — how we graduated to gothic novels and regency romances with heaving bodice covers .Even (gasp!) Emily Loring and Harlequin Romances — we were very young — don’t hate me) How I spent every study period of 9th grade in the school library finishing Marjorie Morningstar and Gone with the Wind and some other saggy, baggy stuff of which I loved every silly, melodramatic word.

    I thank my folks for sending me to the library unchaperoned and for giving me a quarter for the church white sale where I found “Star Girl” for a nickel and an old Whitman edition of “Eight Cousins” with the lurid technicolor cover for a dime. I thank them for having busy enough lives that obsessing over my reading was not an option for them. I especially thank them for not censoring the first and best years of this readers life, when, as Gaiman points out, everything is new and nothing is hackneyed. Here’s to freedom and reading at will and trusting kids to know their own tastes.

Add Your Comment:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.