Have you ever thought what life might be like if the airplane had never been invented? It never crossed my mind either, until I read Airborn, by Kenneth Oppel.
Matt is a cabinboy aboard the Aurora, a luxury aircraft of the blimp variety. He is in love with the ship. He loves everything about it as well as everything about "sailing". In fact, whenever he is on leave, he feels stifled and out of place. Only in the air is he free.
One day, Matt helps his crew rescue an old man who was trying to circumnavigate the world in a balloon. They find him stranded, his balloon badly damaged. He is close to death when he tells Matt about the creatures he has seen in the air.
Cut to one year later...Matt meets the granddaughter of this old man aboard the Aurora. Kate has her grandfather's diary from his ill-fated balloon trip. The old man obviously believed that he had encountered a new species of flying mammal, and Kate is determined to prove her grandfather was not crazy and that these creatures exist, and she needs Matt to help her.
Before she can do so, the Aurora is boarded by the famous pirate Szpirglas and his crew. Soon, Matt and Kate are in deep in an adventure involving pirates, "cloud cats", shipwreck and manslaugter.
I am glad that I was reading this for a book discussion, because I am not sure I would have stuck with it if I hadn't "had to". This is a bit more of a "boy book" that I normally like. What I mean by this is there is lots of talk about the airship and how it works. Me...I don't care about that stuff so much. Once Oppel gets on to the adventure, the pace picks up and I found myself not wanting to go to sleep until I found out what fate had in store for Matt and Kate. The writing is superb. This book is a Printz honor for a reason!