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Matt Cruse is a cabin boy on the Aurora, a luxury airship. One night while on watch, he rescues an injured man on a stranded hot-air balloon. The dying man rants about winged creatures flying in the sky. Matt thinks that he was hallucinating. A year later, Matt meets Kate de Vries, the granddaughter of Benjamin Molloy, the man he rescued. Matt and Kate become friends, and she shows him her grandfather's journal. Kate is determined to find the furry beasts with bat-like wings and sharp claws and take a photograph. When pirates hijack the Aurora, the damaged airship lands on an uncharted island. Kate and Matt explore the island; they discover a skeleton, and later on, a live winged creature that lives in the trees. In their attempt to photograph the "cloud cat," they stumble upon the pirates' hideout and are captured. Will Kate and Matt escape and stop the pirates from stealing the Aurora?
Kenneth Oppel has written an original and imaginative novel. The story is set in an imaginary past and combines fantasy with science fiction. The plot is well developed and suspenseful -- it is sure to keep readers interested. Readers can log onto the website (http://www.airborn.ca) where they can view interactive plans of the Aurora and newspaper clippings of the flight, or follow the original journal entries of Benjamin Molloy.
Airborn was also chosen as the 2005 Honour Book for the Michael L. Printz Award, and the 2005 Young Adult Canadian Book Award Honour Book.