Conor Broekhart was born in a hot air balloon in 1878. Ever since, he has dreamed of inventing some sort of a motorized flying contraption. His father is a captain of the guard of the King of Saltee, sovereign islands off the coast of Ireland. King Nicholas is a great supporter of technological marvels, so Conor has plenty of encouragement. But dastardly deeds are underfoot and Conor soon has to use his quick mind in a very different way.
The steampunk genre isn't new; it's been around for about 30 years. A recent upsurge in publishing alternate history pseudo-Victorian tales for younger readers is, however, like a tail wind pushing the steampunk dirigible into a new spotlight. Kenneth Oppel's Airborn and its sequels, Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan, Arthur Slade's Hunchback Assignments and Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines series are examples I've read.
Irish author Eoin Colfer is an author I can rely on for an entertaining read, so I was willing to give him the 80 pages it took before I became truly hooked on Airman. Once hooked, I didn't put it down until the satisfying conclusion. Grade 5 and up.