Airborn
Airborn

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Annotation: Matt Cruse, cabin boy on the luxury airship Aurora, rescues a dying balloonist who presents him with a mystery about unseen sky creatures that Matt and Kate try to solve.
Catalog Number: #380318
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
All Formats: Search
Common Core/STEAM: Common Core Common Core
Publisher: HarperCollins
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition Date: 2005
Pages: 501 p.
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-06-053182-7 Perma-Bound: 0-605-01394-2
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-06-053182-9 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-01394-0
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2005575553
Dimensions: 18 cm.
Language: English
Reviews:
ALA Booklist
Matt Cruse is a cabin boy aboard the luxury passenger airship Aurora when the ship encounters a battered hot air balloon with an unconscious man aboard. Before dying, the man claims to have seen beautiful creatures swarming in the air over an uncharted island. Not until a year later, when Matt meets the man's granddaughter, Kate de Vries, who boards the Aurora, does he learn that the man wasn't hallucinating. Pirates board, rob, and kill, and a fierce storm grounds the Aurora on the very island that Kate's grandfather spoke about--which proves to be the pirates' secret hideaway. Though readers will need to suspend disbelief of the mysterious flying creatures, which Matt and Kate call cloud cats, details of life and work aboard the ship as well as the dramatic escapade itself make this a captivating read.
Horn Book
Matt Cruse, a cabin boy on the airship Aurora, helps rescue hot air balloonist Benjamin Molloy. Later, Molloy's granddaughter Kate travels on the Aurora hoping to learn more about the strange winged mammals the balloonist wrote about in his journal. Set in an alternate Edwardian-styled past and featuring an enthusiastic narrator, this is a fast-paced fantasy-adventure.
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)
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)

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.
School Library Journal 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. Sharon Rawlins, Piscataway Public Library, NJ
Word Count: 101,042
Reading Level: 5.1
Interest Level: 7-12
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 5.1 / points: 15.0 / quiz: 77198 / grade: Middle Grades+
Reading Counts!: reading level:6.4 / points:22.0 / quiz:Q36260
Lexile: 760L
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-sixty view 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.

Excerpted from Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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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