Study Guide

Airborn Introduction

By Kenneth Oppel

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Airborn Introduction

When asked about the premise of his book, Airborn, Kenneth Oppel said:

"I've long been fascinated by airships. To me they seem almost miraculous. A luxurious passenger vessel bigger than the Titanic, yet lighter than air. They were the biggest objects ever to fly. What if airplanes hadn't been invented? In the world of Airborn, airships rule the skies." (Source)

And the good times don't stop there, Shmoopsters. This book also has a spectacular shipwreck on an abandoned island, an entirely new species that is a cross between a panther and a bat, and a feud with some notoriously nasty pirates. No wonder it gained a ton of critical acclaim when it was published way back in 2004, right?

And by a ton of critical acclaim, we really do mean a ton. It won the Governor General's Literary Award for Children's Literature, the Red Maple Award (OLA), plus other super prestigious honors they hand out in Canada (where Oppel lives and works).

Part of the reason Airborn gained so much attention is because Oppel was already well-known for his Silverwing series, in which all of the characters are bats (yes, bats—you read that correctly). Needless to say, people were a bit surprised when he busted out one heck of a story about two young adults, airships, and wild adventures (though there is a creature with some bat-like qualities in this book, too).

They shouldn't have been surprised though, because Airborn is brimming with imagination and creativity, just like Oppel's previous books. So whether you love bats or not, this book is certain to hold your attention.

Not convinced? Check out this picture of an airship. Don't you want to spend some time on one now? Great—just start reading.

What is Airborn About and Why Should I Care?

Do you love young adult novels but feel like they're all starting to look the same? There have been so many books written that involve supernatural love interests, or a hero/heroine who newly discovers that they've got super powers that make them the only one who can save the world. Or they're about futuristic dystopian societies depicting atrocities beyond our wildest imagination. While these are all fun and good (but let's face it, some are better than others), Airborn is a young adult novel that breaks the mold.

Sure we've got a young man who's obviously destined for greatness despite his meager upbringing, but he doesn't need super powers or an ancient prophecy to save the day. All he needs is his great work ethic… and to sort out a few daddy issues. After all, there's nothing like a flawed hero to really get a story going—and as far as flaws go, daddy issues are about as relatable as they come.

P.S. If that doesn't do it for you, Airborn is basically like a grown-up version of The Muppet's Treasure Island. And we don't know anyone who doesn't love the Muppets—except maybe these guys.

Airborn Resources


Wanna Tour the Aurora?
Immerse yourself even further into the world of Airborn by taking a tour of the Aurora and reading the Endurance's journal. Seriously—this site is full of really cool images and faux news articles that you should really check out.

Oppel's a Pretty Cool Dude
This is Oppel's own site, if you want to learn more about him or his other books.

Articles and Interviews

A Quick Q&A
Have some pressing questions for Oppel? They might be answered here.

Oppel's Kind of a Big Deal
An article about Oppel on the cusp of winning the 2004 Governor General's Literary Award for Airborn.


Here, Kitty
Sometimes we have a hard time getting a clear picture of what the author intended us to see. Maybe this will help.

Did You Even Read the Book?
What's up with this cover design? Why are they over a sea-going ship? When does that happen in the book? Color us confused.

We Know You're Dying to See This
A cross-section diagram of one of the Aurora's engines.

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