Great Illustrated Books


By Kenneth Oppel

Eos, 2004
Pages : 368
Suggested Ages: 10-14
ISBN: 9780060531829

Aboard the gargantuan airship, Aurora, riding high above the Pacificus, heading from Sydney to Lionsgate City, 15-year-old cabin boy, Matt Cruse, helps to rescue an unconscious man in a hot air balloon that is listing in the night sky. The sixty-year-old pilot, Benjamin Malloy, who had been attempting to float around the world, comes to and asks Matt, “Did you see them? . . . Sailing. All around. . . Beautiful creatures. Kate. Would’ve loved them.” An hour later, he dies. What creatures might the man have been talking about, Matt wonders? One year later, Matt encounters that very Kate, Benjamin Malloy’s granddaughter, Kate de Vries, a vibrant, headstrong, and wealthy young heiress, just his age, who hopes to verify the sketches and descriptions of the mysterious "beautiful creatures" her late grandfather wrote about in his logbook. Readers, both boys and girls, will live these adventures vicariously—a flying airship; a heartthrob cabin boy not afraid of heights, crushing on the magnificent Kate, fiercely guarded by her overprotective governess; terrifying encounters with the merciless pirate, Szpirglas; survival on a desert island; and the discovery of those beautiful flying creatures, cloud cats.

The story seems to be set in the teens of the 20th century, though it’s an alternate and parallel time. Readers should compile one list of clues that reveal the era (styles of dress, existing technology) and another that charts the differences between the story's fantastical reality and ours. Continue the derring-do and the danger in the sequel, Skybreaker, where Matt and Kate team up again to seek the Hyperion, a ghost ship missing for more than 40 years, rumored to be carrying a fortune in gold. Find out more about the books and author at and, where you can take a tour aboard the Aurora and read articles in the Lionsgate Times Herald.

Reviewed by : JF.


If you love this book, then try:

Armstrong, Jennifer. Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World: The Extraordinary True Story of Shackleton and the Endurance. Crown, 1998.

DuPrau, Jeanne. The City of Ember. Random House, 2003.

Hirsch, Odo. Bartlett and the City of Flames. Bloomsbury, 2003.

L'Engle, Madeleine. A Wrinkle in Time. Farrar, 1962.

McCaughrean, Geraldine. Gilgamesh the Hero: The Epic of Gilgamesh. Eerdmans, 2003.

Mikaelsen, Ben. Countdown. Hyperion, 1996.

Oppel, Kenneth. Firewing. Simon & Schuster, 2007.

Oppel, Kenneth. Silverwing. Simon & Schuster, 1997. (And others in the Silverwing series.)

Oppel, Kenneth. Skybreaker. Eos, 2006.

Pullman, Philip. The Golden Compass. Knopf, 1996.

Reeve, Philip. Larklight. Bloomsbury, 2006.

Reeve, Philip. Mortal Engines. HarperCollins, 2003.

Stroud, Jonathan. The Amulet of Samarkand. Hyperion, 2003.

Critics have said

An original and imaginative Victorian-era fantasy.
School Library Journal

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. i