Author: Andy Marino
Publication: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) (November 12, 2013)
Description: In 1862, Union army infantryman Samuel Dakota changed history when he spilled a bottle of pilfered moonshine in the Virginia dirt and stumbled upon the biochemical secret of flight. Not only did the Civil War come to a much quicker close, but Dakota Aeronautics was born.
Now, in Andy Marino's Uncrashable Dakota, it is 1912, and the titanic Dakota flagship embarks on its maiden flight. But shortly after the journey begins, the airship is hijacked. Fighting to save the ship, the young heir of the Dakota empire, Hollis, along with his brilliant friend Delia and his stepbrother, Rob, are plunged into the midst of a long-simmering family feud. Maybe Samuel’s final secret wasn’t just the tinkering of a madman after all. . . .
What sinister betrayals and strange discoveries await Hollis and his friends in the gilded corridors and opulent staterooms? Who can be trusted to keep the most magnificent airship the world has ever known from falling out of the sky?
My Thoughts: Thirteen-year-old Hollis Dakota is the heir to Dakota Aeronautics and a passenger on the company's greatest invention - the Wendell Dakota. After his father's accidental death, his mother remarried Jefferson Castor. Castor's son Rob is Hollis' best friend and is well-known for leading him into mischief. Both boys are friends with Delia who is an apprentice beetle keeper on the ship.
This is alternate history. History changes when Hollis' grandfather Samuel discovers a variety of beetle that becomes lighter than air when fed on a mixture of tree sap and moonshine. His discovery leads to the invention of flying machines which support the Northern side of the Civil War and end the war long before it ended in our timeline.
This story begins fifty years later. Samuel has disappeared into the sky. Dakota Aeronautics has grown into a massive company. When the Wendell Dakota is hijacked by Jefferson Castor to get revenge on the Dakota family because Samuel accidentally killed his grandfather, Hollis, Delia and assorted friends from steerage need to find a way to defeat the hijackers and save the passengers. Rob is torn between his friendship with Hollis and his love for his father.
The story was filled with interesting detail about the design of the massive airship and the science of using beetles to power flight. Delia - a genius inventor - also invents a number of useful gadgets including a taser and wireless radio which aid the kids as they try to save the ship.
The story was an exciting adventure story but not an easy story to read. The text was complex. Not only were there several flashbacks but the story was told from a variety of points of view. Able middle grade readers and high school readers will enjoy this adventurous tale.
On his birthday, Hollis had been treated to Il Bambino's signature dish—braised rabbit on a bed of prunes in a white wine reduction—which he suspected was a punishment disguised as a gift.I received this ARC from Macmillan Children's Publishing Group. You can buy your copy here.