I give out yearly reading surveys to find out what types of books kids like. The past few years has brought the same answers: Fantasy, Humor, and Contemporary. A response for historical fiction is almost unheard of, though it does surface about 10% of the time.

We live in an always on world and kids want to laugh, escape, and learn how others deal with problems of growing up. Learning about the past is often delayed until they are older. But now this interesting new series combines fantasy and real life events for readers. It’s a visit to New York City in 1863 at the timedactylhillsquad.jpg of the Civil War.

Main character, Magdalys, is a orphan girl stuck in the Colored Orphan Asylum when the New York draft riots break out. Much of the violence is directed at black New Yorkers. The orphanage is burned to the ground and Magdalys flees along with other orphans. She longs to find out what happened to an older brother who left to fight for the North in the war. She also wants to reunite with the rest of her family in Cuba. She can’t do that unless she first rescues the captured orphans before they are sent South.

That alone would cause me to read, but what if we add dinosaurs to the mix. They are common place on the streets and rooftops. Magdalys discovers she can communicate with them. What results is an exciting adventure with history as the backdrop. You learn what it was like to live during this time period including the slave trade and hints at the sufferings of war. No, there weren’t really dinosaurs during this time, but I’m not complaining if it gets a few more kids interested in history.

The short 39 chapters keeps everything moving at a good pace. The end of this story gives a good sendoff for the next one in the series. Hang on tight. It’s a ride worth waiting for.

PUBLICATION DATE: September 11, 2018   PAGE COUNT: 277



  1. The author added pages of historical information in the back of the book. He comments on what is real and the connection each of the characters had to someone living at the time. There’s also a background on each of the dinos featured.
  2. There are many side characters and although we don’t get to know them in depth, I’m sure it will come in future installments. My favorites were Two-Step and Redd.
  3. Magdalys is a great central character. She learns to work with others and her character arc will continue to evolve.
  4. Some might complain the dialog is too modern and more typical of present day. I liked it as the minimal use of slang will help young readers identify with the characters.
  5. Class and prejudice are woven into the story and make for comparisons with today’s struggles.


Daniel José Older is the New York Times bestselling author of the Middle Grade historical fantasy series Dactyl Hill Squad, the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series, Star Wars: Last Shot, and the award winning Young Adult series the Shadowshaper Cypher, which won the International Latino Book Award and was shortlisted for the Kirkus Prize in Young Readers’ Literature, the Andre Norton Award, the Locus, the Mythopoeic Award, and named one of Esquire’s 80 Books Every Person Should Read.

Learn more about Daniel and his books by checking out his web site.


Make a comment if you have time. I enjoy reading all of them. Click on the comments link below.

About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
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6 Responses to DACTYL HILL SQUAD

  1. I can see how kids will like this because of the dinosaurs and fantasy. And we adults will like the added historical aspects too. Thanks for sharing it!

  2. I am not surprised that kids prefer fantasy, humor and contemporary stories with real-life issues. Glad the author is paying attention and slipping in some historical aspects too. Sounds like an engaging book. It’s adults who enjoy reading the MG historical fiction. I loved historical fiction as a teen, as it was an escape into the past.

  3. This sounds like a unique, interesting read. The cover is just jam-packed with action, too. Thanks for posting this choice today for MMGM, Greg.

  4. Denise Vega says:

    My boys would love this one. Thanks for featuring it today.

  5. Suzanne says:

    I love that you do that survey, and love that this book could persuade kids to read about this historic time who might not otherwise. Sounds like my kind of book!

  6. Dinosaurs. Fantasy. Middle grade hit. Sounds like a good one. Glad you do the survey and share those results, although it didn’t make me happy to find historical fiction not being more popular since that’s what I write.

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