Airborn

Airborn

4.4 176
by Kenneth Oppel
     
 

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Sailing toward dawn, and I was perched atop the crow's nest, being the ship's eyes. We were two nights out of Sydney, and there'd been no weather to speak of so far. I was keeping watch on a dark stack of nimbus clouds off to the northwest, but we were leaving it far behind, and it looked to be smooth going all the way back to Lionsgate City. Like riding a cloud. .

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Overview

Sailing toward dawn, and I was perched atop the crow's nest, being the ship's eyes. We were two nights out of Sydney, and there'd been no weather to speak of so far. I was keeping watch on a dark stack of nimbus clouds off to the northwest, but we were leaving it far behind, and it looked to be smooth going all the way back to Lionsgate City. Like riding a cloud. . . .

Matt Cruse is a cabin boy on the Aurora, a huge airship that sails hundreds of feet above the ocean, ferrying wealthy passengers from city to city. It is the life Matt's always wanted; convinced he's lighter than air, he imagines himself as buoyant as the hydrium gas that powers his ship. One night he meets a dying balloonist who speaks of beautiful creatures drifting through the skies. It is only after Matt meets the balloonist's granddaughter that he realizes that the man's ravings may, in fact, have been true, and that the creatures are completely real and utterly mysterious.

In a swashbuckling adventure reminiscent of Jules Verne and Robert Louis Stevenson, Kenneth Oppel, author of the best-selling Silverwing trilogy, creates an imagined world in which the air is populated by transcontinental voyagers, pirates, and beings never before dreamed of by the humans who sail the skies.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"In crisp, precise prose, Oppel imagines an alternate past where zeppelins crowd the skies over the Atlanticus and the Pacificus, and luxury liners travel the air rather than the sea," wrote PW. "The author's inviting new world will stoke readers' imaginations." Ages 12-up. (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
AGERANGE: Ages 12 up.

"Up Ship!" That is the cry of the Aurora crew as the airship takes flight over the Pacificus ocean. Thus begins this adventure of the skies filled with a luxury airship, dedicated crew, rich passengers, greedy pirates, mid-air rescue, shipwreck, and a dead man's discovery of a strange creature. Matt Cruse, a cabin boy who aspires to be sailmaker, is the likable protagonist in this captivating tale. This lighter than air cabin boy proves his mettle when he attempts and succeeds in rescuing an elderly man from a damaged hot air balloon stranded in the sky. Although the man ultimately dies, he leaves behind a journal with entries and sketches of fantastic sightings of flying creatures--half mammal and half reptile. One year later, his granddaughter Kate DeVries, is flying over the Pacificus on the Aurora to try to validate her grandfather's sightings. When this headstrong heroine joins forces with Matt Cruse, sparks fly. They outsmart her dreadful chaperone, defy ship regulations, and battle fierce pirates in moving toward Kate's goal. Matt is an engaging character. His heart is in the right place and he always tries to do the right thing, even in the face of difficult circumstances. When Captain Walken informs him that he has lost his promotion to sailmaker because of nepotism, Matt soldiers on, chin held high, no dereliction in duties. And when facing down pirates and the carnivorous cloud creature, Matt keeps his cool. This recording, which includes ten CDs and lasts ten hours, will leave listeners hanging on the edge of their seats. The voices of the actors bring the characters to life; they are full of enthusiasm, evil intent, haughtiness, and pride, as thesituation demands. The recording has such energy and will transport listeners to a different place and time as they get caught up in this good, old-fashioned, thrilling adventure story. The print version of the book, on which the recording is based, was selected as a Printz Honor Book. Reviewer: Jeanne K. Pettenati, J.D.

VOYA
Frustrated by his lowly cabin-boy status, Matt Cruse is bent on advancing in rank while serving on the mammoth airship Aurora. When a damaged balloon piloted by a weakened elderly man draws near the dirigible, Matt's diminutive size is an asset. The intrepid teen volunteers to leap the narrow gap between the aircraft and rescue the balloonist. Saved but dying, the pilot demands to know if Matt saw the "flying beasts." Flashing ahead one year, the Aurora embarks on a voyage transporting passengers from Lionsgate City to Sydney, Australia. A late-arriving teen, Kate de Vries, charms Matt, launching a platonic courtship. Isolated in the vast atmosphere above the ocean, the Aurora is plundered by pirates, its gasbags slashed by the rogue vessel's propellers, and the airship crashes onto a desert island, the buccaneer hideout. Exploring the jungle, Kate and Matt encounter elusive Cloud Cats, the mysterious flying beasts described by the dying balloonist. Captured and imprisoned by the pirate gang, the duo escapes only to stumble onto an underground deposit of hydrium necessary to raise the ship, but first they must thwart the robber's plans to murder Aurora's crew. Kate and Matt are given equal roles in this adventure laced with a touch of fantasy reminiscent of Treasure Island and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Committing several murders, the pirates are typically unsavory but are not stock cartoon characters. This title, packed with suspense, fantasy, and thrills, is a solid selection geared to middle school boys. VOYA Codes 4Q 4P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9;Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2004, HarperCollins, 368p., and PLB Ages 11 to 18.
—Rollie Welch
KLIATT
Oppel, the author of the Silverwing series about bats, turns his attention here to other things that fly: blimp-like airships that travel the skyways, as well as mysterious winged mammals dubbed "cloud cats." Our protagonist and narrator is brave young Matt, a cabin boy on the airship Aurora. When a hot-air balloon threatens to collide with the Aurora, agile Matt is able to swing over and avert catastrophe. The gravely ill balloonist mutters about seeing strange flying creatures, and at first Matt thinks he's raving. Then, a year later, the balloonist's granddaughter, Kate, arrives on the Aurora as a passenger, eager to further investigate the existence of these animals. When the airship is boarded by pirates and then crash-lands on an uncharted desert island near where Kate's grandfather had spotted the creatures, the two young people explore their surroundings and encounter a beautiful but dangerous specimen. This fantasy is set in an unspecified era, perhaps 100 years ago, when girls were expected to act ladylike—of course Kate is uninterested in becoming a lady, and instead eager to become a scientist. She is as brave as Matt, and the two have adventure after adventure in this exciting tale, which will appeal to upper elementary, middle school, and junior high students. KLIATT Codes: J*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior high school students. 2004, HarperCollins, 368p., and Ages 12 to 15.
—Paula Rohrlick
School Library Journal
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.-Sharon Rawlins, Piscataway Public Library, NJ Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Entrancing, exciting adventure with airships, pirates, and mysterious flying mammals takes place on an earth with the same geography as ours but different technology. Fifteen-year-old Matt works as cabin boy on the Aurora, a two-million-pound airship kept aloft by gas cells filled with hydrium, the lightest gas in the world. Matt loves the skies; aground, he feels stifled and claustrophobically disconnected from his late father, who was also an Aurora worker. Kate, a rich passenger Matt's age, boards the Aurora in search of furry, flying sky mammals mentioned in her late grandfather's journal but unknown to anyone else. A pirate attack forces an emergency landing on an uncharted island in the Pacificus ocean. Matt's intricate knowledge of his ship and Kate's cheerfully stubborn determination bring them, scrabbling hard, to victory over the brutal pirates and discovery of the wondrous cloud cats. Full of a sense of air, flying details, and action. (airship diagram) (Fantasy. 10-14)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060531829
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
05/24/2005
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
544
Sales rank:
72,929
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 1.08(d)
Lexile:
760L (what's this?)
Age Range:
13 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Airborn EPB

Chapter One
Ship's Eyes

Sailing toward dawn, and I was perched atop the crow's nest, being the ship's eyes. We were two nights out of Sydney, and there'd been no weather to speak of so far. I was keeping watch on a dark stack of nimbus clouds off to the northwest, but we were leaving it far behind, and it looked to be smooth going all the way back to Lionsgate City. Like riding a cloud.

The sky pulsed with stars. Some people say it makes them lonesome when they stare up at the night sky. I can't imagine why. There's no shortage of company. By now there's not a constellation I can't name. Orion. Lupus. Serpens. Hercules. Draco. My father taught me all their stories. So when I look up I see a galaxy of adventures and heroes and villains, all jostling together and trying to outdo one another, and I sometimes want to tell them to hush up and not distract me with their chatter. I've glimpsed all the stars ever discovered by astronomers, and plenty that haven't been. There're the planets to look at too, depending on the time of year. Venus. Mercury. Mars. And don't forget Old Man Moon. I know every crease and pockmark on that face of his.

My watch was almost at an end, and I was looking forward to climbing into my bunk, sliding under warm blankets and into a deep sleep. Even though it was only September and we were crossing the equator, it was still cool at night up in the crow's nest, parting the winds at seventy-five miles an hour. I was grateful for my fleece-lined coat.

Spyglass to my face, I slowly swept the heavens. Here at the Aurora's summit, shielded by a glass observation dome, I had a three-sixtyview of the sky around and above the ship. The lookout's job was to watch for weather changes and for other ships. Over the Pacificus, you didn't see much traffic, though earlier I'd caught the distant flicker of a freighter, ploughing the waves toward the Orient. But boats were no concern of ours. We sailed eight hundred feet above them.

The smell of fresh-baked bread wafted up to me. Far below, in the ship's kitchens, they were taking out the first loaves and rolls and cinnamon buns and croissants and Danishes. I inhaled deeply. A better smell than this I couldn't imagine, and my stomach gave a hungry twist. In a few minutes, Mr. Riddihoff would be climbing the ladder to take the watch, and I could swing past the kitchen and see if the ship's baker was willing to part with a bun or two. He almost always was.

A shooting star slit the sky. That made one hundred and six I'd seen this season; I'd been keeping track. Baz and I had a little contest going, and I was in the lead by twelve stars.

Then I saw it.

Or didn't see it. Because at first all I noticed was a blackness where stars should have been. I raised my spyglass again and, with the help of the moon, caught a glimpse.

It was a hot air balloon, hanging there in the night sky.

Its running lights weren't on, which was odd. The balloon was higher than us by about a hundred feet, drifting off our starboard bow. The burner came on suddenly, jetting blue flame to heat the air in the balloon's envelope for a few seconds. But I couldn't see anyone at the controls. They must have been set on a clockwork timer. Nobody was moving around in the gondola. It was deep and wide, big enough for a kind of sleeping cabin on one side, and plenty of storage underneath. I couldn't ever recall seeing a balloon this far out. I lifted the speaking tube to my mouth.

"Crow's nest reporting."

I waited a moment as my voice hurtled down through the tube, one hundred fifty feet to the control car suspended from the Aurora's belly.

"Go ahead, Mr. Cruse."

It was Captain Walken on watch tonight, and I was glad, for I much preferred him to the other officers. Some of them just called me "Cruse" or "boy," figuring I wasn't worth a "mister" on account of my age. But never the captain. To him I was always Mr. Cruse, and it got so that I'd almost started to think of myself as a mister. Whenever I was back in Lionsgate City on shore leave and my mother or sisters called me Matt, my own name sounded strange to me at first.

"Hot air balloon at one o'clock, maybe a half mile off, one hundred feet up."

"Thank you, Mr. Cruse." There was a pause, and I knew the captain would be looking out the enormous wraparound windows of the control car. Because it was set well back from the bow, its view of anything high overhead was limited. That's why there was always a watch posted in the forward crow's nest. The Aurora needed a set of eyes up top.

"Yes, I see it now. Well spotted, Mr. Cruse. Can you make out its markings? We'll train the light on it."

Mounted at the front of the control car was a powerful spotlight. Its beam cut a blazing swath through the night and struck the balloon. It was in a sorry state, withered and puckered. It was leaking, or maybe the burner wasn't working properly.

"The Endurance," I read into the speaking tube.

She looked like she'd endured a bit too much. Maybe a storm had punctured her envelope or bashed her about some.

And still no sign of the pilot in the gondola.

Along the length of the speaking tube I heard tinny murmurings from the control car as the captain conferred with the bridge officers.

"It's not on the flight plan," I heard Mr. Torbay, the navigator, say.

Airborn EPB. Copyright © by Kenneth Oppel. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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