cover image Freedom Fire (Dactyl Hill Squad #2)

Freedom Fire (Dactyl Hill Squad #2)

Daniel José Older. Scholastic/Levine, $16.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-338-26884-3

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. [em]Agency: JABberwocky Literary Agency. (May) [/em]