Middle Grade Mini Reviews: Just a Dog, The Flame of Olympus, The Tale of Desperaux & Once Upon a Marigold

I have read quite a few middle grade books that I haven’t found the time to review.  So today I’m doing some super short reviews for you guys!  I read all of these books aloud to my kids so that definitely impacts the enjoyability of the book as some books are more fun to read aloud and others I just stumble over words.  In my reviews I will state whether it was enjoyable to read aloud since for me that’s important for any children’s and middle grade book.

Just a Dog by Michael Gerard Bauer
Hardcover, 144 pages
Published: December 1st, 2012 by Scholastic (It may have been published in Australia earlier)
Source: Friend 

Sometimes a dog isn’t just a dog–sometimes he’s the glue the holds a whole family together.

Mr. Mosely is a special dog. Not just because he’s so big (he’s part Great Dane.) Not just because he’s all white (with one black spot under his eye and a heart shaped splotch on his chest.) Not just because he’s clumsy, or because of tricks (he only knows one, and it’s not very good.) He’s special because he seems to know exactly what everyone in Corey’s family needs, even when they don’t know themselves. This is the story of Mr. Mosely, from his puppyhood to the last time he curls up on the back porch. It’s the story of how sometimes a dog isn’t “just a dog”. Sometimes he’s the glue the holds a whole family together.

Anyone who has had a family dog can probably relate to this story.  Mr. Mosely is a funny dog who does some goofy things and definitely brings about some fits of giggles.  He attacks a stuffed animal he thinks is attacking a child, he fetches the paper every morning but when first learning grabs the entire neighborhoods papers and he waits every day for Corey when he comes home from school. Corey shares with us lots of giggle worthy Mr. Mosely stories but as anyone with a pet knows, there are always sad stories as well.  Fortunately the sad stories didn’t get me crying, at least not until the end.  At that point I found myself so choked up I was skipping big chunks when reading aloud to my kids and just reading to myself because seriously, I was about to outright sob and I didn’t want to do that in front of the kids as they didn’t seem to be comprehending the sad stuff.  So reading a dog book aloud to kids might not be a great idea, but really, for the most part it was a pleasure to read aloud and had me in fits of giggles a time or two.

I would say this is for the younger middle grade kids but would appeal to many ages.

The Flame of Olympus (Pegasus #1) by Kate O’Hearn
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published May 22nd, 2012 by Aladdin
Source: Purchased

A young girl, a winged horse, and a war of epic proportions make for an adventurous start to an exciting new trilogy.When Pegasus crashes onto a Manhattan roof during a terrible storm, Emily’s life changes forever. Suddenly allied with a winged horse she’d always thought was mythical, Emily is thrust into the center of a fierce battle between the Roman gods and a terrifying race of multiarmed stone warriors called the Nirads. Emily must team up with a thief named Paelen, the goddess Diana, and a boy named Joel in order to return Pegasus to Olympus and rescue the gods from a certain death.

     Along the way, Emily and her companions will fight monsters, run from a government agency that is prepared to dissect Pegasus, and even fly above the Manhattan skyline—all as part of a quest to save Olympus before time runs out.

This is another book with mythology but it definitely had a different feel from any other one I have read.  Straight away we are met with devastation as Olympus is falling and the flame is put out.  Then we jump over to Emily and this is when the story really starts.  Pegasus lands on the roof of Emily’s Manhattan apartment building and Emily goes up to see what the noise is and finds Pegasus.  They quickly bond as Emily helps heal him back to health.

This book was a fast read with constant action.  The bad government people are trying to find them as well as a group of stone warriors that seem to be un-killable.   It was pretty tense through much of the book and I often found myself reading longer than I had planned.  At the same time I never felt truly connected to the book and I’m not exactly sure why.

I read this to my kids and I would say that some parts were a bit bloody with fighting and the tense moments were perhaps a bit too tense for them.  For this reason I’m going to say that I recommend it for true middle grade readers and not younger readers (my kids are 7 and 3).

It was still a good  book though and I’ve been a bit torn on the rating.  I think that this is one I would have enjoyed more if I had read it to myself instead of aloud to my kids.  I found myself stumbling over words and it wasn’t as smooth going.  Some of that may have been due to my anxiousness to see what was going to happen next and because the intensity that I was reading (to fit with the intensity of the book).

The Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo
Paperback, 270 pages
Source: Purchased

Welcome to the story of Despereaux Tilling, a mouse who is in love with music, stories, and a princess named Pea. It is also the story of a rat called Roscuro, who lives in the darkness and covets a world filled with light. And it is the story of Miggery Sow, a slow-witted serving girl who harbors a simple, impossible wish. These three characters are about to embark on a journey that will lead them down into a horrible dungeon, up into a glittering castle, and, ultimately, into each other’s lives. And what happens then?

As Kate DiCamillo would say: Reader, it is your destiny to find out.

This was a book that was a true pleasure to read aloud.  As a matter of fact, I don’t I would have enjoyed it half as much if I’d just read it to myself.  I felt like I was reading poetry.  The entire story slipped off my tongue so smoothly and I could have sat and read the entire thing in one sitting if I hadn’t been trying to get my kids to sleep.

The story is adorable and has some great messages in it as well.  I think that maybe most of it went over my kids head but with some discussion they understood.  I can’t really be specific as it’s been well over a month since we finished the book, but I do know that it was one we had fun discussing.  And I had a blast reading!

This was my second book by Kate DiCamillo and I loved it as much as the other.  I definitely recommend it!

Once Upon a Marigold (Upon a Marigold #1) by Jean Ferris
Paperback, 271 pages
Source: Purchased

Christian is gaga for Princess Marigold. But he’s just a commoner, and no match for royalty. Heck, he lives in a cave with a troll! And now he’s discovered another reason to put his love-soggy heart on ice: Queen Olympia is scheming to take over the kingdom–and she’ll bump off her own daughter to do it. Can Christian foil her diabolical plans?

 This story was adorable!  I loved reading it aloud as it was beautifully wrote and the words just flowed off my tongue like honey.  Once I started reading this one each night I wanted to just keep going, I found putting it down to be very difficult.

This is along the vein of a fairy tale because it’s for children, is wrote like it’s for children, but yet it’s about a boy who falls in love with a princess and well… you can guess the rest.  But yes, it has a HEA.  I found it very predictable, but that didn’t ruin it at all for me.  I loved reading about Christian and Marigold and wanted to keep reading their story.  This is the first book of at least two (maybe more?) so I will certainly be picking up the next!  I recommend this for younger readers as well as the older reader.  I think the whimsical style will appeal to many.

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  1. So glad you’re posting a middle grade review. Middle grade authors don’t get as much spotlight on book review blogs.

    I really enjoyed The Tale of Desereaux. I’ll have to check out The Flame of Olympus. It sounds good.

  2. Thanks for the great reviews Candance! My middle school guy wont let me read to him anymore but boy do I miss it! I think Tale of Despereaux was one of our last Read A Louds. It’s a great book! I think he would really like the others.

  3. Natalie, I agree, MG books DON’T get nearly as much attention!

    Kim, that stinks! I have many years left of reading here but I know when they don’t want me to read aloud anymore I will be sad.
    You can still read them to yourself!

    Kindlemom, When it comes to MG books we really read a variety here. From the ones aimed at 8 and up to the ones meant for older MG readers. But some of those have gotten put aside for later so the kids don’t get nightmares. Like Percy Jackson for example. 😉

  4. I love reading books with my kids, and am always looking for something different for us to try. I’m really glad you had such a nice time with these, Candace!

  5. I really need to read more MG. I don’t get the opportunity to as much as I would like. Just a Dog sounds adorable…I’m sure I’d cry at some of the sad bits too, though, because I have a dog.

    I also really want to read The Tale of Desperaux sometime. Loved the movie.

  6. I miss reading aloud to my son. We discuss books and read certain parts to each other, but it just isn’t the same. One of my all time favorites, and his fave for me to read to him was the Edward Tulane book by Kate DiCamillo. Man, that woman can write.

  7. These sounds like some really grade MG books. My nephews love to read and I am always passing along any MG books I read to them or suggesting some to them. Thanks for sharing these.

  8. I’ve seen Pegasus around, but didn’t feel like picking it up- I’m curious about it now! But I want to read Robin McKinley’s version before I get to this one.

    Great reviews. =)

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