Kenneth Oppel's young adult novel won the Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature in 2004.

Kenneth Oppel

In the dramatic and imaginative tale Airborn, Kenneth Oppel has created an alternate history, one where the airplane was never invented. Instead, people fly through the sky in giant airships. Matt is a cabin boy on one of these fancy airships, and when he makes a dramatic rescue, he forever alters the course of history. Can he fix it in time?

Airborn is for readers ages 12 and up. The book won the 2004 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature.

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From the book

"Sir, there's a ship headed towards us!"

The airship was small, and I could now see why I'd not picked her out earlier. Her skin was painted black, and she carried no running beacons anywhere. No light emanated from the Control Car either. Her side bore no markings, no name or number. It was only her dark sheen from the moon's light that made her visible at all.

"She's at ten o'clock and sailing straight for us, half a mile."

"Bear away," I heard the first office tell his rudder-man. "Elevator up six degrees. Summon the captain."

That meant we were going into a climb. The Aurora was as responsive as a falcon. Stars streamed to my left as the ship began her turn, angling heavenward. High in the crowsnest, I swivelled in my chair so I could watch the smaller vessel. As we turned and climbed, she turned and climbed with us, keeping herself on a collision course. This was no mistake. She was chasing us. She was smaller and faster than the Aurora, and I could feel the vibration of our engines at full capacity. We would not be able to outrun her.

From Airborn by Kenneth Oppel ©2005. Published by HarperCollins Canada.

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Dr. Robert Thirsk was the first Canadian astronaut to fly a long duration expedition aboard the International Space Station. Dr. Thirsk spoke to us from Houston, Texas, about why he chose to take Kenneth Oppel's Airborn into space with him during his six-month mission. It won the Governor General's Literary Award for children's literature in 2004.