Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Dactyl Hill Squad (Dactyl Hill Squad, #1)” as Want to Read:
Dactyl Hill Squad (Dactyl Hill Squad, #1)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Dactyl Hill Squad

(Dactyl Hill Squad #1)

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  895 ratings  ·  242 reviews
It's 1863 and dinosaurs roam the streets of New York as the Civil War rages between raptor-mounted armies down South. Magdalys Roca and her friends from the Colored Orphan Asylum are on a field trip when the Draft Riots break out, and a number of their fellow orphans are kidnapped by an evil magistrate, Richard Riker.

Magdalys and her friends flee to Brooklyn and settle in
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published September 11th 2018 by Arthur A. Levine Books
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Dactyl Hill Squad, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Jennifer No, there will be a second book, and at the end you realize what the next adventure will be, but the original conflict is resolved at the end of the b…moreNo, there will be a second book, and at the end you realize what the next adventure will be, but the original conflict is resolved at the end of the book.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.81  · 
Rating details
 ·  895 ratings  ·  242 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Dactyl Hill Squad (Dactyl Hill Squad, #1)
Rebecca Roanhorse
Jul 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
So much fun. A cleaver and entertaining way to introduce real historical events (think Draft Riots and Gangs of New York) to middle grade readers. A mix of historical and contemporary slang keeps the prose fresh and appealing to contemporary readers. Older really upped his game. This is great stuff!
Dec 08, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: victorian, younger
This is 3 stars in the goodreads-asserted sense, meaning "I liked it." I liked many things about it (the spunky kids on dinosaurs, the attempt to make important moral and historical lessons fun and interesting) but didn't love it. Of course, I am also not 10, and therefore not the intended audience. I'd be interested in hearing what people who have kids the right age think. Did they understand the historical setting? Was the pace right? I admit I found some parts a but slow (but I was more patie ...more
I'm not giving this a rating because I am in two very different minds about it. Part of me is all "Yay! Five stars! Historical adventure with a smart, brave girl of color—nay, an entire cast of characters of color— and dinosaurs! Plus, it very sneakily teaches really important history lessons about the North during the Civil War. And dinosaurs!" And the other part of me was all "Two stars because the science just doesn't make sense. I'm not even a scientist and I know that. I mean, if dinosaurs ...more
Adriana (SaltyBadgerBooks)
Aug 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, arc
My review is based on the ARC which was actually given to me by a friend.

I loved it! As of this moment it is my favorite middle grade of the year! I really liked that he gave us something fun and educational. I know the lingo is accurate (but he does explain that in the informational section) but it makes sense why he does it!

I like that he came up with mini-dactyls and well just mini dinosaurs in general. And that he came up with shorthanded names for these dinosaurs as if they did evolve with
oh another one I forgot to review earlier! First of all, when I booktalked this in schools kids lost their MINDS about it. It's SUCH a good premise. Civil War + dinosaurs?? Hell yeah hell yeah

PLUS ALSO it does such a smart great job of integrating some pieces of Civil War history that aren't as widely taught, plus also a rad trans character! But also just a lot of fun!

I knew I had to read this when I first heard of this book because 1) dinosaurs, 2) it was written by one of my favourite authors, Daniel José Older.
What a hoot this book was! I loved the alternate history where dinosaurs coexist. Unfortunately, all the other horrible things of this time period (1863) also exist, so main character Magdalys Roca is no stranger to racism and the unequal treatment applied to people of colour.
After getting trapped in a riot and a barely evading a kidnapping attempt
Nov 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: colorinyamg, all-mg
@Kidlitexchange #partner - I received a copy of this book from the Kidlitexchange network in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Released 9/11/18

In an unstable world where Black people still had to fight for their freedom and right to be seen as equal human beings (gee that hits way too close to home no matter how I try to spin it.) Magdalys and her friends fight for survival, friendship and family.

If you’re a parent or educator reading my review, I recommend you leave your gr
Reviews May Vary
Imagine that in whatever years the Civil War was, there were dinosaurs! And imagine that you have the ability to communicate with them. Boom! Dactyl Hill Squad. I am recommending this to all adventure seeking middle grade readers. It's a great way to blend a little history with a little pre-history!

Here's my Youtube gush sesh:
Chris Coolman
Jan 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: j-fic
Dactyl Hill Squad is one of those books that tells you to hold tight and then floors the accelerator. The action is well written and paced perfectly while set among Civil War era New York. Wait.. it's also full of Dinosaurs. I'll get back to that in a minute. This was my first read of a book by Mr. Older and I'm in. I love how he knits historical fact into the story line giving the book the feel of the era. The lead character, Magdalys Roca, is one of the strongest female characters I've come ac ...more
Jul 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Different with a capital D and super fun! Kids are going to eat this series up. Civil War in an alternate America with all the action in this volume in New York City. Dinosaurs are domesticated in this world and our orphaned heroine has a telepathic link to them that enables her to direct their actions and win their loyalty. Issues of race, class and prejudice are threaded through the story and well integrated. The dinosaur battle scenes are wildly entertaining and the villains completely despic ...more
Aug 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: middle-grade
Initial Thoughts: I loved the premise of this one (dinosaurs during the Civil War era!),but the writing left something to be desired. The pacing was off and things would happen very suddenly, and some things were so outrageous (but not in a good way) that I couldn't believe they actually happened. There's also not as much of a Civil War tie as I really wanted, but that's a personal opinion. I do like the historical notes in the back of the book about both the war and dinosaurs. Finally, the dial ...more
I always like to kick my reading year off with something fun, something promising to kick off a reading year. Dactyl Hill Squad has been on my to-read list since it was announced, pretty much, so it seemed like an auspicious start.

It's just your average Civil War story centering on a group of orphans of color, one of whom can communicate with the dinosaurs that are used for transport and labor. One night, while protagonist Magdalys and her friends are out at a Shakespeare performance, they get s
Laura Harrison
Jan 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
I read this to my almost 9 year old daughter, and she was totally fascinated by it. Reading this book led to productive discussions about history, gender, war, and slavery. Despite what some reviews have said, she had no trouble understanding that this is a piece of historical fantasy, so their were no dinosaurs in the Civil War era! I would recommend this for older kids to read themselves, or kids my daughter’s age who will still let an adult read to them.
Aug 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Historical fiction with dinosaurs? The combination just barely works (IMVHO) - the history occasionally got short-shrifted because the dinosaur part needed to be worked in. Luckily there are author's notes about the Draft Riots, the Colored Orphan Asylum, the period slang and dinorsaurs to help fill in blanks and point readers to additional information.

ARC provided by publisher.
Sep 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Release date - September 11, 2018

I was drawn to this book by the unique premise. Dinosaurs and humans coexist, and both the North and the South are using dinosaurs in the Civil War. They are used in place of horses, to deliver mail and to fight or attack. The main character Magdalys (Mags for short) is an orphan who discovers she can communicate with the dinosaurs, and becomes involved with the war effort.

When I read that she could communicate with the dinosaurs, I was imagining that the book w
Jul 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
I wish this book had existed when I was a kid, who loved both sci fi and historical fiction. (I also wish there were grown-up books with this concept!) Basically, dinosaurs are alive and well during the US Civil War, and are used for carriages, mail, war, and more; and some people have empathic/telepathic connections with them. Set during the July 1863 draft riots in New York City, it follows Magdalys and her friends from the Colored Orphan Asylum as they deal with the aftermath of the riots and ...more
Sep 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-childrens
I read this to my 9-year-old. It took MONTHS, but he loved it!
I appreciated that I was able to teach him about some tough subjects (slavery, lynching, racism) in a way that wasn't too scary for him, but still made sure he knows how serious these issues are. We're both looking forward to book 2!
Llyr Heller-Humphreys
Dec 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.75. Absolutely excellent middle grade novel that mixes historical fiction and... dinosaurs.
Some of the scenes were incredibly heartbreaking, but written in a way that middle school aged kids will get a lot out of both the history and the adventure.
Aug 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, novel, history
This is one of those books that a lot of people, myself included, are willing to give a chance just because the premise makes the sheer volume of possibilities just explode in our minds. The civil war but with dinosaurs? Yes please. Yes PLEASE.

And the result was a fascinating look at a bit of the Civil War that doesn't always get a lot of focus, at the culture of black Americans in New York at that time, and a great cast of fun characters on a mission to save lives and quash evil.

Our main charac
Linda Patchett
Jul 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Exciting and unique. Dinosaurs, black orphans, and lost family members during the Civil War...all in New York City. What a combination for adventurous reading! It's well written, suspenseful, poignant, and humorous. The heroine, Magdalys, finds she can talk to dinosaurs and her friend Mapper, is a genius at schematics. The characters seem quite real even though they ride a long extinct Mosasaurus to save their friends from being sold into Southern slavery. Underneath the fantastical adventure ar ...more
Joy Smith
I enjoyed this combination of alternate history and fantasy. I found the premise especially interesting because back in school I researched and wrote a paper on the Civil War draft riots in NYC and the burning of the Colored Orphan Asylum. Some of the events, places, and people are based on reality--including black theater and the main villain--and some are fiction, including the dinosaurs. Sounds like lots of research on the different kinds of dinosaurs and their temperaments though! The charac ...more
Jan 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-6-8
We all know that there were never dinosaurs during any part of human existence and definitely not during the Civil War. Older's addition of these "characters" makes this fantasy exciting and opens some history to younger readers. His notes at the end of the book are very important, explaining what was real and what fictions he used. In 1863 there were draft riots in New York. The participants took their fury out on blacks in Harlem and elsewhere. This gives today's students a deeper understandin ...more
Daniel José Older is important for a lot of reasons, and two of them are the creation of brown world in a MG book and the existence of a heroic trans kid in that world. And not only is the world of the book almost without white people, when they are around they're often the villains (which is an excellent reversal of the trope that has demonize non-white people in fiction basically forever), and almost always involved in the slave trade. I admire and appreciate Older's willingness to talk about ...more
Jennifer Mangler
I love that Older has created a book with an entire cast of characters of color set during the Draft Riots, but the dinosaur stuff lost me. Then again, I'm not the target audience. I'm not sure how I feel about "historical fantasy" as a genre. I can see where this fantasy element could be very attractive to a middle grades reader, and if that pulls them into a book that deals with race relations in the North during the Civil War, then all I have to say is, "Yay." I just hope the readers of this ...more
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fun middle grade novel that puts orphan kids riding on dinos fighting human trafficking during the Civil War. I would have liked to get to know the characters a bit better, as this book was heavily plot driven, but it is the first in a series, so maybe we'll get to know the characters better as it goes along.

Overall, it was fun and full of action and adventure, and I think kids who like dinosaurs and history would love it!
Hilary Martin
Jul 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Wow... this book has dinosaurs, the civil war, lost orphans, secret societies and more. It's fun and educational but parents and teachers would be wise to chat with their kids about the material as slavery and racism are major themes. There is also a scene where the orphans find a dead body. Pretty heavy stuff for a middle grade novel but I have no doubt kids can handle it. ...more
Clare Lund
Dec 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
A strange and fascinating story that imagines life during the Civil War... with dinosaurs. Magdalys and the rest of her courageous squad risk their lives to save their fellow orphans from a kidnapper with an evil plan, based on a real-life villain from the 1800s. I recommend this unique adventure for ages 8 and up!
Jan 26, 2019 rated it it was ok
Oof. Very mixed bag.
The detailed notes at the end of the book describing what certain people/places were based on honestly interested me more than the rest of the story. Although Part 3 was by FAR the best part, it took a long time to get there and the writing style left a lot to be desired.
This took me three months to get through.
Lesley Burnap
Feb 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Interesting concept...fighting slavery with dinosaurs! MC is a compelling female teen-I want to know more about her story! Oh, and she can communicate with dinos & terras! Great role model! For grades 4/5+ due to content, violence, including a lynching (afterward is described). Amazing author notes, especially the section that told about basis/ background for some characters.
Jan 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Weirdly, this reminds me of Harry Potter (in all the best ways): scrappy, unlikely kid heroes using magic to team up together to fight injustice. Great writing, fun plot, plenty of action, and just-right level of historical events (Civil War!) woven in to make it interesting.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Play Book Tag: Dactyl Hill Squad by Daniel Jose Older, 3.5 stars 11 29 Jan 04, 2019 03:17PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Last Last-Day-of-Summer
  • Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky (Tristan Strong #1)
  • Sal and Gabi Break the Universe (Sal and Gabi, #1)
  • I Can Make This Promise
  • A Good Kind of Trouble
  • Efrén Divided
  • From the Desk of Zoe Washington
  • Clean Getaway
  • Dragons in a Bag (Dragons in a Bag #1)
  • Song for a Whale
  • The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora
  • The Season of Styx Malone
  • Mañanaland
  • Land of the Cranes
  • Cape (The League of Secret Heroes, #1)
  • Ghost Squad
  • The First Rule of Punk
  • Some Places More Than Others
See similar books…
See top shelves…
Daniel José Older is the New York Times bestselling author of the Young Adult series the Shadowshaper Cypher (Scholastic), the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series (Penguin), and the upcoming Middle Grade sci-fi adventure Flood City (Scholastic). He won the International Latino Book Award and has been nominated for the Kirkus Prize, the Mythopoeic Award, the Locus Award, the Andre Norton Award, ...more

Other books in the series

Dactyl Hill Squad (3 books)
  • Freedom Fire (Dactyl Hill Squad, #2)
  • Thunder Run (Dactyl Hill Squad, #3)

Related Articles

  Every year in the U.S., we observe National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 through October 15. And this is the perfect...
48 likes · 11 comments