You can take the teacher out of the classroom, but you can't always take the classroom out of the teacher. Rick Riordan, who spent 15 years teaching social studies and history to middleschool students before leaving in 2004 to write full-time, is still making abstract concepts and events that happened 3,000 years ago both interesting and relevant to the lives of middle-grade audiences.
Not content with resting on his laurels after concluding the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, about the adventures of the modern-day son of Greek god Poseidon, Riordan is working on a spinoff trilogy featuring a few more young offspring of the Greek gods and goddesses. The Heroes of Olympus series will debut this fall with the October release of The Lost Hero. This month, Hyperion launches another new series from the author, the Kane Chronicles, which features a completely different cast of divine characters. This time, the Egyptian gods and goddesses have invaded the 21st century to wreak havoc.
In the first installment, The Red Pyramid, Carter Kane and his sister, Sadie—descended from both the pharaohs and from magicians—try to stay one step ahead of the gods and goddesses as they crisscross the globe, simultaneously searching for their father and trying to save the world from destruction.
Although Egyptian myths are not as familiar today as Greek myths, Riordan insists that ancient Egypt "fascinates kids." It intrigues him as well. He recalls "reading and reading" about Egypt, delving into subjects he previously knew nothing about, and including what he learned in The Red Pyramid. "The magic, the spells, the shabti," he explains, "are all grounded in reality."
Although adhering to the winning formula of breathing new life into ancient mythology that has made him a household name with young readers, Riordan mixes it up in The Red Pyramid, with the two siblings taking turns narrating their story. "It's very important to me that both genders have protagonists they can identify with," the author, ever mindful of his young charges, says. "And I've never done alternating points-of-view before."
Like any good teacher, Riordan knows he himself has to be actively engaged if he hopes to successfully immerse readers in his worlds of myth and magic. "I keep myself interested and entertained by pushing myself to try something new," he says. "If I'm having fun, I think the readers will enjoy the ride, too."
Riordan will sign copies of The Red Pyramid today, 3–4 p.m., at Table 24.