by Sara Conway ’21
The story of Percy Jackson began as a bedtime story for one of Rick Riordan’s sons, Haley. When Riordan ran out of traditional Greek myths to tell, he created Percy Jackson who went on a “quest to recover Zeus’ lightning bolt in modern day America.”
A demigod with ADHD and dyslexia, Percy Jackson reflected the difficulties that Riordan’s own son was struggling with. At the time Riordan was writing, Haley was in the process of testing for mental dysfunction since he was “having trouble reading and some trouble focusing in the classroom.”
In an interview posted on his website, Riordan acknowledges that individuals with ADHD/dyslexia are “creative, ‘outside-the-box’ thinkers” who see and solve problems in a different way than most do, but they are “sometimes written off as lazy, unmotivated, rude, or even stupid.”
The Lightning Thief and the creation of Percy Jackson was Riordan’s “way of honoring the potential” of the kids who struggle with ADHD and dyslexia like his son. Through Percy Jackson and his other mythology-based series, including The Heroes of Olympus, The Kane Chronicles, and the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series, Riordan stresses that, “It’s not a bad thing to be different.”
Riordan’s positive message emerges in his new imprint, launched by Disney-Hyperion, Rick Riordan Presents, which is “devoted to mythology-based books for middle grade readers,” according to Publisher’s Weekly.
The creation of Rick Riordan Presents responds to the numerous questions Riordan receives from his fans about writing books about other mythologies. Rick Riordan Presents aims to “publish great middle grade authors from underrepresented cultures and backgrounds.” Riordan as an author has stepped back to let these writers “tell their own stories inspired by mythology and folklore of their own heritage.”
The first book under the Rick Riordan Presents imprint was written by Roshani Chokshi, a young adult author well known for her duology, The Star-Touched Queen. Chokshi’s book, Aru Shah and the End of Time, focusing on Hindu mythology, was published on March 27, 2018. Kirkus (a starred review) applauded Chokshi for “spin[ning] a fantastical narrative that seamlessly intertwines Hindu cosmology and folklore, feminism, and witty dialogue for an uproarious novel for young readers.”
The imprint recently released its second book, The Storm Runner, by Jennifer Cervantes on September 18, 2018, a story about a 13-year-old boy with physical disabilities and a connection to the Mayan gods. The Storm Runner also received starred reviews from Booklist and School Library Journal who declared the book a “page-turning and well-written trip into the world of Mayan mythology.”
Yoon Ha Lee’s book, Dragon Pearl, is slated to be published in January 15, 2019. Pitched as sci-fi meets Korean mythology, the space opera book already possesses two starred reviews. Kirkus Reviews states how Dragon Pearl is a “brilliant example of how different cultures can have unique but accessible cosmology and universal appeal.”
Not only does Dragon Pearl center around Korean mythology, but Lee also features a nonbinary character, emphasizing Riordan’s goal of creating books that will allow young readers to see themselves in the stories that they read.
Rick Riordan Presents has sequels for the two released books set to be released between 2019 and 2021, as Aru Shah is a four-book series. Seven other books focusing on mythologies ranging from Cuban to African are expected to be published, starting in March 2019 and extending to May 2021.