Airborn by Kenneth Oppel

Title: Airborn

Author: Kenneth Oppel

Publisher: Harper Collins Canada

Published: 2004

2004 Governor General’s Literary Award

2004 Red Maple Award (OLA)

2005 Michael L Printz Honor Book

2005 Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Award

From Kenneth Oppel’s website:

Matt Cruse is the 15-year-old cabin boy aboard the Aurora, the 900-foot luxury airship he has called home for the past two years. While crossing the Pacificus, Matt fearlessly rescues the unconscious pilot of a crippled hot air balloon. Before he dies, the balloonist tells him about the fantastic, impossible creatures he has seen flying through the clouds. Matt dismisses the story as the ravings of a dying man, but when Kate de Vries arrives on the Aurora a year later, determined to prove the story is true, Matt finds himself caught up in her quest. Then one night, over the middle of the ocean, deadly air pirates board the Aurora. Far from any hope of rescue, Kate and Matt are flung into adventures beyond all imagining. . .

You know, this book came out years ago. I didn’t pluck it off the new bookshelf when it arrived, although I am a big Kenneth Opel fan. Later that same year AIRBORN was awarded the Governor’s General’s Literary Award. I made a note to self that I needed to read it. And the following year it shortlisted for the Michael L. Printz award. And. Did I pick it up to read? No, but made note to self that must get it read. Fast forward to 2012 and it was still on my to read list.


Last week I finally started to read it and oh my, why did I wait so long? As I read I fell in love with the characters, the details of the ship, the world creation, the mystery and adventure. Sky pirates, mysterious mythical air born creatures, sky ships larger than the Titanic—so much to love and I found myself forming a book talk, thinking of the kids and adults I would share it with. I did not want the book to end! Of course, to an end it does come. Thank goodness this is a trilogy. Needless to say I will not be waiting to read the SKYBREAKER  and STARCLIMBER.

For classrooms and book clubs the author has a crazy cool Airborn Trilogy Website, complete with newspaper articles from this re-imagined history where airships ruled the air and pirates are the scourge of the open skies. The articles written are plucked from the events that drive the book.

Opel also has an Airborn Literature Unit for Grades 6-9  written by teacher librarian Martha Martin. Gads, it makes me want to be 11 and back in grade six just so I can sit in the classroom and experience it.

For now, though, I will settle for being one happy retro reader and reviewer for the awesome Nerdy Book Club.

Working in public libraries since 1986, Deb Marshall was most recently Assistant Manager, Youth Services and Programming. She ran a middle grade book club, summer reading program and Saturday puppet shows. She hopes to start similar programs in the small town she recently moved to. This is in keeping with her plans to take over the world one library, one book club at a time.