Dactyl HIll Squad, by Daniel José Older

There is a special fun that comes when reading a book in which it's clear the author enjoyed the books nifty premise immensely (or at least gives that impression). The premise of Dactyl Hill Squad, by Daniel José Older (Arthur A. Levine, MG, Sept. 2018), is that instead of horses, 19th-century USA relied on dinosaurs and pterosaurs for transportation. 

 The story takes place in New York City, around the time of the Battle of Gettysburg. Magdalys Roca, an insignificant resident of the Colored Orphan Asylum, is away from the Asylum for a treat with her friends, when the Daft Riots break out, and New York City becomes a battleground.  Richard Riker, an evil magistrate of the city, has his greedy eyes set on the orphans, who can be shipped out of the city as human cargo.  The orphanage is burned down, the 100 plus kids there are missing.  But Magdalys and her friends escape, and flee to Brooklyn.

There they find a group of men and women dedicated to stopping Riker and his ilk, Magdalys and the other kids determined to rescue their fellow orphans, now captives.  And it turns out that Magdalys is just the secret weapon that's needed for the job.  She has a rare ability to communicate mind to mind with the dinos and pterosaurs...and the determination to do what ever it takes to win!

It's a bright book (in the sense of bright as not dull)--it makes clear pictures in the reader's mind, it's, fast-paced, and the dino-wrangling is enjoyable mind candy.  There's a serious depth to it though--though it's all good fun, the wrongs that are being fought against really happened.   Kids wanting dinosaur fantasy fun and fighting won't be disappointed, but they'll also learn something.  There's good back matter, with historical information, dino information, and a note on "weapons and words."  Shakespearean dramatics also are part of the background, with the plays being embraced and played w by a famous African American actor who was part of Magdalys' escape to Brooklyn (it's nice to see Shakespear included as something fun and friendly).  I myself especially appreciated the thought given to how each type of dinosaur would be useful, both in battle and in daily life.

Short answer--I enjoyed it, and would recommend it in a sec to kids who enjoy historical fiction, gun fights, and dinosaurs!

1 comment:

  1. This book has a wild premise that might be a bit over the top for me, but your comments plus the fact that I like the author mean I will probably still give it a read!


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