Title & Author: Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
Summary: Young cabin boy Matt Cruse lives for flying. He feels out of place on the ground, and wants more than anything to someday be captain of the airship Aurora. When he encounters a dying man who talks of winged creatures, he dismisses the remarks as delusions. A year later, when he meets the man’s granddaughter, Kate de Vries, he must choose where to put his trust. Their friendship – and lives – are at stake when pirates attack the Aurora and leave the entire crew stranded on a desert island that turns out to be the pirates’ home.
Reference: Oppel, K. (2004). Airborn. New York, NY: Eos.
My Impressions: This fantasy fiction book took a while for me to get into, but is one of my new favorites. Once you let your mind sink into the steampunk realm of airships, flying mammals, and Victorian sensibilities, this is a must-read. Its action-packed adventure pulls readers along and makes them root for Matt Cruse every step of the way.
Professional Review: /* Starred Review */ “Gr 6-10 –An original and imaginative Victorian-era fantasy. Matt, 15, only feels alive when he's aloft working as a cabin boy aboard the Aurora, a luxury airship that is part dirigible, part passenger cruise ship. When wealthy Kate and her chaperone come aboard, Matt soon discovers that she is determined to prove her grandfather's claims that he saw strange creatures flying in the sky in that area the year before. The man's diary describes them as huge, furry beasts with batlike wings and sharp claws. Soon after Kate arrives, pirates attack the ship and rob the wealthy passengers. A storm forces the damaged Aurora to set down on a seemingly deserted island. Kate and Matt discover the skeletal remains of one of the creatures, and, later, a live but deformed one that lives among the treetops. In their attempts to photograph "the cloud cat," they stumble upon the pirates' hideout and are captured. Can they escape in time to stop the brigands from stealing the Aurora ? Will Kate prove the existence of this undiscovered species? This rousing adventure has something for everyone: appealing and enterprising characters, nasty villains, and a little romance. Oppel provides glimpses of the social conventions of the era, humorous byplay between the main characters, and comic relief in the form of Matt's cabin mate and Kate's straitlaced chaperone. Reminiscent of Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines (HarperCollins, 2003), this adventure is much lighter in tone and has a lower body count.”
Reference: Rawlins, S. (2004, July 1). [Review of the book Airborn by Kenneth Oppel]. School Library Journal, 50, (7), 131. Retrieved from http://schoollibraryjournal.com
Library Uses: This book would make a great script for a Reader’s Theater production in a teen /tween group. Teens could even take it a step further and make a video of themselves performing one of the action scenes from the book, such as when the pirates attack the Aurora.