In this thrilling sequel to Dactyl Hill Squad, Magdalys Roca and her crew of dinosaur-riding orphans head southward, having gotten swept up by the American Civil War. Magdalys, still exploring the true extent of her ability to communicate with and control dinosaurs, hopes to find her long-lost brother, a Union soldier who was reportedly wounded in action. Along the way, the group encounters the all-black forces of the Union-affiliated Louisiana Native Guard Mounted Artillery Unit. Magdalys and her friends’ various skills prove useful to the war effort, and Magdalys discovers that some Confederates have her abilities. Torn between family and duty, Magdalys’s loyalties and resources are tested when she’s sent to New Orleans on an urgent mission. While Older’s inclusion of dinosaurs adds a fanciful element, the trauma of conflict, the era’s prevalent racism, and the underappreciated contributions of people of color to the war bring verisimilitude to the story. In addition to heart-pounding action sequences and cinematic moments (such as aerial combat involving pterodactyls), the tale’s strong emotional core reinforces the importance of family in all of its forms. Background notes elaborate on the story’s elements. Intelligent, rousing, and abundantly diverse, this is every bit as satisfying as the first installment. Ages 8–12. Agency: JABberwocky Literary Agency. (May)
Awards and Praise for Dactyl Hill SquadA New York Times Notable BookAn NPR Best Book of the YearA School Library Journal Best Book of the YearA New York Public Library Best Book of the YearA Washington Post Best Book of the YearA Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year"Older fascinatingly blends thunder-lizard thrills with lesser-known but important aspects of American history... Readers will adore Magdalys Roca... Far from a natural hero, Magdalys displays a realistic mix of terror and gumption in the face of the monsters around her, reptilian and human. Where else will her adventures carry her? There's another installment of this mind-bendingly original series coming, sure to be eagerly awaited." New York Times Book Review* "Epic... This high-energy title is perfect for middle graders, with its strong female protagonist, a fresh perspective on history, helpful notes and resources, and an honest portrayal of the complex topics of race and gender." School Library Journal, starred review* "Delightful historical fantasy... Rooted in real events and attitudes, and appended with facts about the time, this fast-paced adventure makes for a memorable tale in which numerous characters of color take the lead." Publishers Weekly, starred review"Dactyl Hill Squad has everything a reader could possibly want in a middle-grade book: action, adventure, magic, humor and dinosaurs. Magdalys is the same kind of young, engaging and flawed protagonist as Philip Pullman's Lyra a character readers can't help but love even when (especially because) she's frustrating. An entertaining and wholly fulfilling series opener." Shelf Awareness"Daniel has imagined the unimaginable and in doing so sends readers on a dino thrill ride. I have been talking about this book nonstop! The kids, the dinosaurs, the Civil War, this book is true fire. It is everything I didn't even know I needed." Jacqueline Woodson, National Ambassador for Young People's Literature and New York Times bestselling author of Brown Girl Dreaming and Another Brooklyn"An extraordinary adventure full of heart and imagination that adults will enjoy reading just as much as kids! This is the story that would've made me fall in love with reading when I was a kid." Tomi Adeyemi, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Children of Blood and Bone"In this Tyrexcellent historical realignment fast paced, but deceptively packed with amazing detail Older's uprising of sheroes and heroes grips, stomps, and soars from start to finish." Rita Williams-Garcia, three-time Coretta Scott King Award winner and New York Times bestselling author of One Crazy Summer"Dactyl Hill Squad is an engaging, lively adventure with a heroine I wish I were, in a world I didn't want to leave." Jesmyn Ward, two-time National Book Award-winning author of Sing, Unburied, Sing"This incredible story brings history to life with power, honesty, and fun." Laurie Halse Anderson, New York Times bestselling author of Chains"A crackling fantasy adventure full of thrilling scenes." James McPherson, author of Pulitzer Prize winner Battle Cry of Freedom"Kids, the Civil War, and dinosaurs action doesn't get any better than this!" Tamora Pierce, New York Times bestselling author of The Song of the Lioness"As an historian of New York City, I'm thrilled with Daniel José Older's melding of the best of history and fantasy in Dactyl Hill Squad. I couldn't put it down!" Leslie Harris, author of In the Shadow of Slavery"This action-packed historical fantasy adventure should have wide appeal, leaving fans eager for the next installment. Dino-fueled fun with depth." Kirkus Reviews"Older's rousing mix of actual history and dinosaurs will be irresistible to the upper-elementary and middle-school crowds." Booklist"Middle schoolers will be drawn to this new alternate history adventure series.... Nonstop action keeps readers engaged... It is worth noting that this novel is richly infused with real historical people and places. The social and political issue of racial prejudice permeates the storyline... Look for this series to be popular with students and spur further interest in the Civil War." School Library ConnectionAwards and Praise for Freedom Fire (Dactyl Hill Squad #2)A Publishers Weekly Best of Summer Reading 2019"An unforgettable historical, high-octane adventure." Dav Pilkey, author-illustrator of the Dog Manseries* "Blisteringly paced, thought-provoking adventure." Kirkus Reviews, starred review* "Intelligent, rousing, and abundantly diverse, this is every bit as satisfying as the first installment." Publishers Weekly, starred review"Older has middle-graders' number with this dino-charged series. Stampedes are likely!" Booklist
Gr 4–7–In this second installment of the series, Magdalys Roca and friends fly into the midst of the raging Civil War hoping to reach her wounded Union soldier brother in New Orleans. The book opens during their journey south from New York when, atop the giant Pteranodon Stella, squad member Cymbeline calls for an enigmatic stop in Tennessee. The group soon discover her true role in the war as they meet with Union General Sheridon's dino-mounted Louisiana Native troops, an African American regiment. High levels of tension and danger ensue as Magdalys witnesses the horrors of war while tamping down her increasing ability to communicate with and control various types of dinosaurs. She even saves the life of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and is called upon to use these talents in the war effort. As her friends go their separate ways, she learns that her brother is in grave danger, and she faces a difficult decision: buck the odds of survival to locate her brother, Montez, or assist the army for the greater good? This series deals with the consequences of war, the racism of both Northern and Southern whites toward individuals of Native American, African American, and Afro-Caribbean heritage, and the pains of growing up during this era. An author's note provides backstory, although the addition of a map of the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean would be helpful. VERDICT This series installment will draw readers in with its fast-paced action, likable characters, and fantastical twists on Civil War history.—Ruth Quiroa, National Louis University, Lisle, IL
Magdalys and company return in this sequel to Dactyl Hill Squad (2018).
On their way with their pteranodon to New Orleans to rescue Magdalys' injured Union soldier brother, the squad falls in with the all-black Louisiana Native Guard (that they're not Native American is commented on), led by Gen. Sheridan. Secrets soon start to spill: The sole adult in their crew, thespian Cymbeline, is actually a Union spy, and when Sheridan discovers Magdalys is a dino-wrangler, he tries to inveigle her into Union service. Magdalys feels betrayed by Cymbeline, wants to prioritize her brother, and understandably doesn't trust Sheridan—but that doesn't save the squad from getting pulled into battle. The rapid pace is akin to the first installment's but smoother, and as the squad navigates peril after peril, the supporting characters come into their own. As Afro-Cuban Magdalys recognizes how putting her power in Union hands could help enslaved black people, she vacillates. Showing great respect for his readers, Older doesn't pull any punches. Amaya, who is Apache, points out the irony of fighting for people who stole Native land. Later, Magdalys grapples with the unpleasant truth that (most?) Northerners would happily keep black people enslaved in exchange for an end to the war—even Gen. Grant himself. Readers will be relieved that in a cruelly unjust world she gets a happy ending, though it's clear her story is far from over.
Blisteringly paced, thought-provoking adventure. (Historical fantasy. 10-14)