I’ve been a fan of Rick Riordan‘s kid books from the very beginning and of the man as well. (He previously wrote books for adults.) After reading and loving The Lightning Thief and checking out his teacher guide, I wrote him of my admiration for both. At the time he was either still teaching middle school or had only very recently stopped and the guide was one he’d developed himself for his own classroom. Happily it is still available on his website here. He wrote me a lovely handwritten letter back (which I, sadly, no longer have) and sent me an extra-large Camp Half Blood t-shirt (which, I believe, he may have been making on his own dime at the time).
A few years later we were fortunate to have him speak at our school and since then I’ve seen him here and there. One of my favorite times was at the Brooklyn Museum for his launching of The Kane Chronicles. Of course, going through the Egypt galleries with Rick was awesome, but I got a kick out of something so totally out-of-context that I have never forgotten it. Alex McCord, one of the original Real Housewives of New York, was there with her family and it was so …odd.. that I couldn’t get over it. She just loomed over all of us frumpy sorts in her heels and tight blue sheath and told me her children loved Riordan’s books which is no doubt true. (She has since moved to Australia and become a psychologist — not the life of any of the other original ladies, that is for sure.) I was amused to see Riordan in his usual tweed jacket with leather elbow patches in a photoshoot with them. Along with everything else, the man is incredibly generous.
Riordan is also a model for how to do it right as a white writer in terms of diversity, LGBT, and #ownvoices. He has included characters of various ethnicity and race in ways that feel real and never forced. When someone on twitter questioned him about a problematic line about spirit animals in The Sword of Summer and Debbie Reese asked if he could have it deleted in future editions, he apologized immediately and said he’d asked his editor and it would be done. His superb rendering of a gender-fluid character in Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Hammer of Thor was recognized by the 2017 Stonewall Committee. And he’s started a new imprint Rick Riordan Presents that will
… publish great books by middle grade authors from underrepresented cultures and backgrounds, to let them tell their own stories inspired by the mythology and folklore of their own heritage.
This post started out as I wanted to put down some thoughts about Riordan’s latest, The Dark Prophecy (The Trials of Apollo, #2). Plot-wise it offers many of the same thrills as earlier ones — cliff-hangers, prophecies, battles, obstacles to overcome, tests, etc. But Riordan elevates these tropes into a different reading realm from most. This is because of his stellar writing. There is wit, stuff to make you think, and an economy and tightness that keeps everything moving briskly along. Riordan’s characters are well-drawn and nicely varied diversity-wise in a way that feels authentic and not forced. And then he manages to make it funny, perhaps closer to the way Terry Pratchett does than anyone else I can think of. I suspect I noticed this particularly with this book having recently read one by someone else trying to do similar things. To be honest, I don’t find plots that resemble games (lots of tests, etc.) especially compelling unless— as with Riordan’s works — there is more to enjoy. There is here and I can’t wait for his next book. (And there is one delightful thing to see before you begin — Riordan dedicated the book to the great Ursula K. LeGuin.)
Kudos to Rick Riordan for doing such great work.