Rick Riordan’s books changed this kid’s life.

Author Rick Riordan
Author Rick Riordan

Rick Riordan, who skyrocketed to fame with his first young adult series, “Percy Jackson & the Olympians,” has a new novel – “The Ship of the Dead” – coming out on Oct. 3. The next day, he’ll be at the N.C. State University’s McKimmon Center to talk about the book.

Sam Chandler, 14, of Raleigh, plans to be there. He credits Riordan with turning him into a reader. As an elementary schooler struggling with dyslexia and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, Sam says reading was a chore. Then he discovered Riordan’s “The Lightning Thief,” the first book in the Percy Jackson series.

What was so special about the book?

Jackson, the story’s hero, is an American teenager with dyslexia and ADHD who finds out his father is the powerful Greek god Poseidon.

The book was made into a movie in 2010 and made over $200 million at the box office.

Riordan has said he was inspired to create the character Percy by his son Haley, who has dyslexia and ADHD.

Riordan fan Sam, who was diagnosed with learning disabilities at age 7, says reading about Percy was a turning point.

“I used not to like reading,” Sam said. “Now I really love reading, and it helps me a lot.”

Sam’s parents Serenity and Bryan Chandler read Riordan’s “The Lightning Thief” first and gave it to Sam when he was in elementary school, even though they knew it would challenge him.

“‘The Lightning Thief’ series is the one that opened reading up to him,” Serenity Chandler said. “He didn’t feel so alone anymore, even though (Percy’s) just a character in the book.”

Sam transformed from a third-grader reading at a first grade level to a fourth-grader who was “begging” his mom for more books, especially Riordan’s. Sam has read almost all of Riordan’s mythology books (there are more than 20 in five series) and is waiting for a copy of “The Dark Prophecy,” which Riordan published in May as part of his series “The Trials of Apollo.”


“The Ship of the Dead” is the final installment of Riordan’s series “Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard,” which is based on Norse mythology. The main character Magnus is similar to Percy, Sam said, and their storylines intersect: he’s related to Percy’s friend Annabeth, a daughter of Greek goddess Athena.

Reading has made homework easier, and Riordan’s books are a favorite topic among his family and friends, Sam said. He and his sister Savanna, 15, argue about whose favorite character is better. Now homeschooled, he likes learning about history and said Riordan’s series “The Heroes of Olympus” taught him about ancient Rome.

Sam and his father plan on attending Riordan’s book signing. If he gets to meet the author, Sam wants to thank him for creating Percy Jackson. Until then, this is his advice for anyone thinking of starting a Riordan series:

“Pick a series that’s completed, because you’ll get mad at the cliffhangers.”

Evie Fordham: @eviefordham 919-829-4654