Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
With a swashbuckling style and an imagination in overdrive, Hughes (Toots and the Upside-Down House) grabs readers on page one and never lets go. Jack Black, an enterprising young lad, convinces his captain father to take him along on the maiden voyage of the Bellerophon, the world's largest airship. Little does Jack know that he's in for the ride of his life. From uncovering a dastardly plot to sabotage the Bellerophon to a dangerous midair plunge onto the deck of a mysterious pirate ship, where he gets caught in a deadly race to destroy the dreaded Nemesis, a futuristic warship on auto- pilot, Jack careens from one perilous predicament to the next. Hughes's robust blend of fantasy and adventure features nonstop action, whisking readers from the clouds to the high seas, from the tropics to an exploding volcano to a polar ice cap. The beguiling cast includes a ship's cat named Lard, a cook who gets tipsy swilling molasses, a swaggering flyboy whom Jack worships but who may not be all he seems. And there's the likeable Jack, of course, who rises to meet the challenges thrown his way. Entertaining from start to finish. Ages 10-13. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Jack Black's father is Captain of the biggest, fastest, most beautiful airship in the entire world. Jack realizes his dream when his father allows him to join him on a trip around the world. To make it even more exciting, Jack's hero, an aviator named Gadfly, is along for the journey. Aboard the ship, however, Jack discovers that there is a plan underfoot to sabotage the voyage and discredit his father. While trying to warn his father, Jack is cornered; he plunges thousands of feet to the icy water below, where he is miraculously rescued by a passing ship. Captain Quixote and his motley crew of sailors take Jack under their wing, but Jack is determined to rescue his father. Quixote has his own enemy to deal with, though�a dastardly warship called The Nemesis. Comedy and misadventures are nearly nonstop in this cleverly told tale, where heroes and villains are not always transparent. Captain Quixote, who has more in common with that literary figure than the name, and his bawdy band of men provide laughs and action aplenty. Though a happy ending is never in serious doubt, plot twists and coincidences will keep the most attentive reader guessing to the end. 2000 (orig. 1997), Random House, $17.99, $15.95 and $6.50. Ages 10 to 14. Reviewer: Christopher Moning
Hughes provides a swashbuckling fantasy-adventure story in which Jack Black's dream to accompany his father on the magnificent airship Bellerophon leads to more adventures than he ever could have imagined. After overhearing a plot to plant a bomb on a tail fin, Jack falls from the airship while evading the plotters. He is miraculously scooped up out of the air by the sails of the Hyperion, captained by Quixote and his motley crew. Jack will be on this ship as a member of the crew until he dies, he is told, because this "miracle ship" cannot be put into port. Only when Quixote can be persuaded to face the Nemesis, a monstrous automated warship, will Jack be able to rescue his father and the Belle, lost somewhere in the Polar Seawhere the Nemesis roams. The different elements of plot are deftly linked together. Scenes are described vividly: a volcano exploding on a fantasylike treasure island, a playful sea monster sharpening her teeth on the prow of the Hyperion, and Jack hanging on to a plane by his fingertips after the last-ditch attempt to destroy the Nemesis. There is a colorful cast of characters including the treacherous Gadfly; Mr. Treacle, the ship's cook; Beryl Faversham, a beautiful young aviator; and Quixotea true Don Quixote of the seas who practices piracy with chivalry. Jack is the quintessential boy hero who shows courage and daring and learns what real leadership means. This novel offers an exhilarating read for teens who love action-packed yarns. VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P M (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2000, Random House, 231p, . Ages 12 to 14. Reviewer: Hilary CrewSOURCE: VOYA, June 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 2)
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-From merely dreaming of adventure and glory, young Jack Black suddenly becomes an active participant in a world filled with helium airships, robotic war machines, sea monsters, pirates, and daredevil stunt pilots. Thrilled at being named a junior crew member under his captain father on the Bellerophon, the world's largest airship, Jack barely learns his way around when he is cast overboard after discovering a sabotage plot. His sickening plunge through the air ends aboard the sea schooner Hyperion, but Jack's hopes of immediately rescuing his father are dashed. The odd and piratical crew has another goal entirely, and Jack finds himself pressed into service against the horrific super weapon known as Nemesis. Coincidences and cliff-hanging action follow in chapter after chapter, as subplots intertwine and all is at last resolved in a climactic Polar Sea battle. This is not great literature by any means, but it is exciting fare to include on leisure reading lists.-Starr E. Smith, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
In this rip-roaring adventure, Jack joins the crew of the Bellerophon, the largest airship ever built. Early on, he overhears a plot to sabotage the dirigible but falls out of the ship before he can warn his father, the Captain. Fortunately, Jack lands on a sailing ship. Unfortunately, it's a pirate ship with a strange crew and a stranger mission: to destroy an automated warship that blasts away everything in its path. With a cast of larger-than-life characters, including a female flying ace, this fast-paced tale plunges from one unlikely but entertaining peril to the next.
With an airy disregard for internal logic or realistic detail, Hughes (Toots and the Upside-Down House, not reviewed) flogs an array of colorful characters and situations into a patched-together, whirlwind adventure featuring giant air- and ocean-going ships, dashing aeronauts of both sexes, an exploding island, treachery, (weak) comic relief, and a doughty lad at the center of it all. Scarcely has the first voyage of the great dirigible Bellerophon begun before young Jack catches wind of a bomb plot, then falls from a hatch toward the distant Polar Sea before he can unmask the conspirators. Fortunately, he lands safely in the sails of a passing ship. Unfortunately, the ship is bombarded by the Nemesis, a fully automated rogue battleship. But, for some reason a well-timed electrical storm forces the Nemesis to withdraw . . . and so it goes, at a headlong clip, to the climactic, violent destruction of the robot ship, and the rescue of the crashed Bellerophon's crew. As the author repeatedly gets Jack into a pickle, then trots out some wild coincidence or arbitrary device to extract him, any suspense or sense of danger is but momentary, and unlike Jack, readers will figure out who the villains are without much trouble. With all the huge machines and intrepid deeds, there are hints of grandeur here, along with surprisingly little explicit violence (the lesser of the two bad guys is boiled alive: the major one just ends up in jail, which seems unfair). But there's little of the imaginative flair that characterizes the novels this models: the science fantasies of Jules Verne and Philip Pullman. (Fiction. 11-13)
From the Publisher
"With a swashbuckling style and an imagination in overdrive, Hughes grabs readers on page one and never lets go." --Publishers Weekly
Read an Excerpt
Jack Black ran up the hill and paused at the top to catch his breath.
Before him lay the airfield with its rust-colored airstrip, wooden buildings, canvas tents, herd of sheep (to keep the grass short) and tall mooring mast. Looming over it all was the giant airship hangar. The hangar was five hundred feet high and more than one thousand feet long. It was so huge it could create its own weather, but even so, it was only just big enough to house the Bellerophon, the largest airship in the world. Five times bigger than the biggest blimp and faster than an ocean liner, the Belle was magnificent. It was hard to see her full glory, housed in the hangar as she was with men swarming about her, obscuring her with their scaffolds and ladders. But Jack had seen' her when she'd been out on test
runs, when the helium in her gas cells lifted her high above the airfield. Then the sun had bounced off her silver skin and dazzled all who'd seen her. She was an aweinspiring sight, almost a thousand feet long and three hundred feet high, and, best of all, Jack's father, Captain Henry Hugo Black, was to be her captain.
Jack set off down the hill, but the sudden roar of a plane overhead made him stop and turn sharply.
The plane, a bright yellow Berger 17, shot past.
"Gadfly!" yelled Jack, waving frantically at the famous aviator's plane. "Gadfly's back!"
The yellow plane landed neatly, red dust from the airstrip rising behind it. By the time Jack reached the hangar, the yellow plane was taxiing to a stop.
Jack caught up with it and jumped onto the wing. He clung to the edge of the cockpit and laughed as he tried to pull the goggles off the pilot's face.
"Gadfly, ya varmint," he yelled at the top of his lungs. "I'm commandeering this plane. Hand it over!"
"Why, you little rotter," laughed Gadfly. "I'll teach you to go climbing on my plane." He grabbed hold of the back of Jack's belt, pulled him into the cockpit headfirst, and began to wallop him on the backside with his big gloved hand. "Putting your footprints all over the Viper's pretty wings. Blunt won't be happy having to clean this off."
With an effort, Jack pulled himself upright and shot a glance at Gadfly's mechanic, Blunt, who sat in the rear cockpit bundled in flying jacket, helmet, and goggles. All Jack could see of Blunt's face was his sour, down-turned mouth.
"Hello, Blunt," said Jack cheerily. "Didn't see you there. How are you?'
Blunt just stared through Jack as though he didn't exist. Jack shrugged and leaned close to Gadfly's ear.
"Blunt wouldn't be happy if he won a diamond tiara in a raffle."
"Shhhh, hissed Gadfly. "He's the best mechanic in the world, and I'm not going to lose him just because you don't like his looks. Besides, you never know, a tiara might suit him."
Jack burst out laughing again.
As Gadfly brought the plane into the shadow of the giant hangar, Jack jumped down and ran to see the Belle. He knew every inch of her by heart: the twenty-four engines arranged twelve along each side, the four tail fins, the main gondola suspended beneath her belly. He stared up at the men climbing over the hull and tried to imagine what it would be like when the airship was thousands of feet above the world, cutting through the clouds. The rudders on her tail fins would shift slightly, and the Belle would respond by turning in a wide, graceful arc. Jack smiled. Fast planes like Gadfly's were his first love for sure, but the Belleropbon was special in a different way.
From the Trade Paperback edition.