What happens when two thirtysomething siblings relive the summer reading programs of their youth in an all-out battle of the books? The race is on as they read by the rules and keep tally on their logs to see who will be the ultimate reader by Labor Day 2011.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


I tried. I really and truly tried. I made a few notes about what profound literary tomes I'd read this summer. I picked up a few titles honored in recent book awards. I had high, high hopes of astounding you (and if you're reading, I mean you) with my change of pace. This would be proof that I do, in fact, read books other than pink, glittery odes to the life of a single girl. Or divorced girl. Or recently married, not-sure-if-she-wants-to-have-a-baby girl.

But, I wanted to read a book that recently consumed the evenings of my almost-double-digit daughter and it just so happened to be the first book I began upon the start of this summer's challenge. If you're an adult mystery fan or the parent of an elementary school reader, you've probably heard of Rick Riordan. Riordan is the king of the authors for reluctant readers, offering plots that go beyond the humor and science fiction genres usually popular with these kids. He has equally strong male and female characters of all ages. He mixes fantasy with history, magic with mythology, really smart minds with nice, solid average kids. There's practically a character for any kind of student, but they all have a compelling role in his stories. Above all, the writing is strong, the plots complex, and the series go on and on. What's not to love?

Last year, my daughter and I read through his Percy Jackson series and became immersed in the 39 Clues. I'm usually not a fan of abject commercialism, but I loved the idea beyond the books in the 39 Clues series, how readers could join in the quest through a website and trading cards. It brings the plot to life in ways that Harry Potter fans could only dream of (until today). While Riordan only wrote one of the books, he conceived the overall story and other authors have written the subsequent books (under their own name, in an attempt to broaden reading interest).

His latest series, The Kane Chronicles, follows a similar trajectory, beginning with the first book, The Red Pyramid. Between the numerous characters and the references to Ancient Egypt, I should have used a character list to track them all (and just discovered one on the series' website). However, and this is important to a younger or more reluctant reader, all of these characters didn't muddle the plot. The twists and turns of the story, and its reliance on ancient times, make for some complex plot jumps, but Riordan nicely repeats important tidbits throughout to remind the reader of salient points. I read this book over the course of one week (at 500+ pages, it's a hefty challenge to any reader) and, I have to admit, I'm ready to delve into the second book in the trilogy. Now that it's officially summer vacation, I might turn this into a read aloud book with my daughter, who is just as eager to start learning again about the future of Sadie and her brother, Carter.

Family time. Wholesome entertainment. It's worthy of one point, don't you think?

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