Author: Kenneth Oppel
Series: Book one of the “Matt Cruse” books, followed by Skybreaker and Starclimber
Age/Audience: Middle readers , 5th – 8th grade
Read If You Like: Treasure Planet (film), high-sea adventures, pirates, quick reads
This steampunk-light novel is a page-to-page adventure. The book opens with 14 year-old Matt Cruse, the cabin boy on the Aurora, an airship lifted by hydrium – a gas lighter than hydrogen and able to carry a cruise-sized airship smoothly through the skies. The ship’s course is slightly diverted, though, when a damaged air-balloon is seen drifting in the sky. The crew of the Aurora rescues the balloon’s pilot, but he soon dies in their infirmary. Matt thinks little of it until one year later, when they take on the balloonist’s grand-daughter, Kate de Vries, as a first class passenger from Lion Gate City to Sydney, Australia. Kate is not onboard for a pleasure cruise, though. She is determined to finish her grandfather’s mission: to find a creature called “cloud cats” and restore her grandfather’s good name. Kate’s mission could prove problematic for Matt, as she has attempted to enlist him in helping her. Matt doesn’t need any trouble. Having been passed over for a promotion from cabin boy to sail maker he can’t afford any black marks on his record. But when the Aurora is forced to crash land on a remote island after damage she received in a pirate attack, it becomes harder for Matt to refuse Kate’s insistence to accompany her in her search of the island for the elusive cloud cats. The island, though, is small and unlucky- the Aurora isn’t the only shipwreck on the shores.
Bottom Line: Good for reluctant or romance/adventure dependent readers, too simple for advanced readers
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