Everyone needs a hero: Lessons from Rick Riordan

647 tickets were sold for Rick Riordan’s book signing in New Jersey last night. Run by the Clinton Bookshop, the event began with Riordan speaking about his inspiration for the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series and concluded with a seemingly endless line of kiddos and parents queued up with books to be autographed.

(Thanks, T.O.T., for your picture (again!) You’re far more photographically-talented than me!)

If you’re not familiar with the Percy Jackson series – is that possible? If so, go become familiar.

I guess I can just tell you… If you’re not familiar with the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, the title character is an adolescent with ADHD and dyslexia. He’s been kicked out of every school he’s attended and he has a knack for creating catastrophes and destroying things.

And he’s the hero.

Riordan spoke about how he created Percy Jackson for his son. The tales were bedtime stories long before they were transcribed and best-seller’d. Why give Percy characteristics many would consider unheroic? Because his son has learning difficulties too.

My first thought was: that’s so sweet!

My second thought was: I always loved that Percy wasn’t the cookie-cutter hero; how cool to know why.

My third thought on the subject occurred while I was helping organize the gagillion kiddos into line for autographs. As I queued and checked books for post-its, I chattered. This is not a surprise, but what did surprise me was the number of kiddos who told me that Percy’s learning differences were why they liked the book.

He’s like me.

I’ve got ADHD too.

I’m dyslexic. I can’t read Greek though. How cool would that be?

I never liked reading; these books are my favorite! Best books in the whole world!

And the moms and dads? I had the same conversation over and over – but it was the type of conversation you want to have on repeat – “Can you believe they’re so excited to see an author? I never thought Johnny/Andrew/Luke/Megan/Sarah/… would be a reader!” The parent would take some steadying breaths, dab an eye, or look around in wonder until the formerly-non-reader kiddo interrupted or tugged a sleeve.

I was in writer/teacher heaven.

Everyone needs a hero they can identify with. Why did women best-sellerize Bridget Jones? Not because she was the epitome of grace, achievement, and beauty, because we related to her gaffes, weight battles, and perseverance.

Percy Jackson? He may be a dyslexic protagonist with ADHD, but more importantly, he’s loyal, brave, committed and compassionate. In short, he’s a hero.

My life and class are full of kiddos and heroes just like Percy… and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I hope Riordan’s books help them recognize their own inner-heroes as well!