Lists of Nominees
Documents to Print

Discussion Module

Levithan by Scott Westerfeld

y Scott Westerfeld

Publishing Information: Simon Pulse: New York, 2009
ISBN: 97801416971733 / 9781416971740 (PB) / 9780743583886 (Audio)
: 440 p.
Ages: 10 & Up

Clankers and Darwinists prep for war while orphaned Austro-Hungarian Prince Alek flees danger and Deryn, disguised as a boy, trains as an airman on a British flying whaleship.

In an alternate 1914 Europe, fifteen-year-old Austrian Prince Alek, on the run from the Clanker Powers who are attempting to take over the globe using mechanical machinery, forms an uneasy alliance with Deryn who, disguised as a boy to join the British Air Service, is learnign to fly genetically-engineered beasts.

Book Talk:
This novel is a study in opposites, of boy versus girl, working class versus aristocracy, British versus German, and the conflict of Darwinists and Clankers.

In an alternative history/ steampunk novel, brilliant Deryn Sharp wants to serve on the great whale airships created by the British Darwinists, the biggest and best being the Leviathan. This is 1914 and women are forbidden to join the military so she must disguise herself as a boy, Dylan Sharp, to join the British Air Service. Meanwhile, Aleksandar Ferdinand, prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is running from Austria to a safe haven created by his father, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who has been assassinated.  He is escaping in a Stormwalker: a tank on legs, made by the Germany and by the Empire. This Stormwalker is a one of many Clankers, a steam-driven machines equipped with guns and cannons, created to win the inevitable war with Britain. As politicians and diplomats stumble toward a huge war, Alek and Deryn have their own adventures as their paths cross. Secrets must be kept and opposites must work together for survival in wartime.

Subject Headings & Major Themes:

Alternate History
Boy Impersonators
Genetic Engineering
Imaginary Creatures
Science Fiction

Awards & Reviews:
American Library Association Notable Children's Books, 2010
Andre Norton Science Fiction Award Nominee, 2009
Arizona Grand Canyon Reader Award Nominee, 2012
Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2010
Capitol Choices, 2010
Illinois Rebecca Caudill Award Nominee, 2012
Kentucky Bluegrass Award Nominee, 2011
Kirkus Best Young Adult Books, 2009
New Hampshire Isinglass Award Nominee, 2011
Pacific Nortwest Young Reader's Award Nominees, 2012
Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award Nominee, 2011
School Library Journal Best Books for Children, 2009
South Carolina Junior Book Award Nominee, 2012
South Carolina, YA Book Award Nominee, 2012
Tennessee Volunteer State Book Award Nominee, 2012
Texas Tayshas Reading List, 2012
Washington Evergreen Young Adult Book Award Nominee, 2012
Young Adult Library Association Pupular Paperbacks, 2011

Booklist, August 1, 2009
Book Page, October 1, 2009
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
, December 1, 2009 (Starred Review)
Horn Book
, November, 1, 2009
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2009 (Starred Review)
New York Times Book Review, November 8, 2009
Publishers Weekly, August 24, 2009 (Starred Review)
School Library Journal, September 1, 2009 (Starred Review)
Teacher Librarian, February 1, 2010
VOYA: Voice of Youth Advocates, October 1, 2009

Discussion Questions and Ideas:

  1. Why is Prince Alek so aware of his royal rank and title? Did he ever have much chance to just an equal with anyone? Why were titles so important?
  2. As tutor to a possible heir to an Empire, has Count Volger been teaching Prince Alek. But does what does Alek really know?
  3. Why are Count Volger and Otto Klopp so determined to save Alek? Why is nothing mentioned of their families?
  4. Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin was published in 1859. Is it possible for so many ‘creatures’ to be created by 1914 which is a short period of time?  How might it have happened? (In an alternative reality, does it matter?)
  5. Only a few people are vegetarians, so most people use animals for food. Is that different from using horses for riding or oxen to pull wagons?
  6. Alek considers it horrible to create animals to work like machines, but humans have bred animals for at least 5,000 years. Is genetically altering animals to create a new species that different from what farmers have done in the past?
  7. Deryn thinks that burning fossil fuels for light is a waste of energy when living glow worms can give light? Why does she think that? Do you agree?
  8. Dr. Barlow talks of her grandfather who saw that where there was clover, there were cats and so there were bees and not mice. Read page 194 and 195 and then answer the following two questions.
  9. It could be possible to create a dinosaur in a laboratory, using DNA from birds. Is that a good idea?
  10. Tazza is a thylacine, a Tasmanian tiger. They are now extinct. If they could be recreated, should they be? Where would they live? 
  11. Deryn must pretend to be a boy to enter the British Air Service, even though she is very intelligent and she is very focused on being a good airman. Now women can be sailors on submarines in the US Navy and pilots in the US Air Force. In your opinion, is this a good thing? 
  12. What do you think Dr. Nina Barlow is bringing to the Ottoman Empire? She seems to be defying the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill. What are her motives? Is she trying to keep the Ottoman Empire out of the war or is she just concerned with what will hatch from her eggs?
  13. Dr Barlow is a descendant of Charles Darwin but does that make her a great biologist automatically?
  14. What is a boffin? What is clart? Why does the author invent/adapt slang for the midshipmen? 
  15. There will be at least one more book in this series. How will Deryn secret be discovered? Or will it? 
  16. At the end of Leviathan, Deryn is keeping Alek’s secret? Do you think that he could keep hers?
  17. Of the two creations, the airship Leviathan and the Stormwalker, which one fascinated you the most?

Related Websites:
Author's Website -
First World War: A Multi-Media History of World War One -
The Great War @ PBS -
List of Slang in Leviathan -
What is Steampunk? -

Airborn by Kenneth Oppel, 2004 (2006 RITBA Nominee)
by Kenneth Oppel, 2006
Starclimber by Kenneth Oppel, 2009
Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith
by Deborah Heiliggman, 2009
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly, 2009
Girl in the Arena
by Lisa Haines, 2009
The Hunting of the Last Dragon
by Sherryl Jordan, 2002
Mortal Engines
by Philip Reeve, 2003 (2006 RITBA Nominee)
Predator's Gold
by Philip Reeve, 2004
Infernal Devices by Philip Reeve, 2005
The Year of the Hangman
by Gary Blackman, 2002 (2005 RITBA Nominee)
Worldshaker by RIchard Harland, 2010

Other Books by the Author:
, 1997
Fine Prey, 1998
Evolution's Darling, 2000
The Risen Empire, 2003
The Killing of Worlds, 2003
The Secret Hour, 2004
So, Yesterday, 2004 (2006 RITBA Nominee)
Uglies, 2005 (2007 RITBA Nominee)
Touching Darkness, 2005
Peeps, 2005 (2008 RITBA Nominee)
Pretties, 2005
Blue Noon, 2006
Specials, 2006
The Last Days, 2006
Extras, 2007
Bogus to Bubbly: An Insider's Guide to the Uglies, 2008
Love is Hell, 2008
Behemoth, 2010 (sequel to Leviathan)

About the Author:
Born: May 5, 1963, Dallas, Texas, USA
Family: Pamela, mother, from West, Texas; Lloyd, father, from Crawford, Texas Wendy and Jackie, sisters (both older)
Married writer Justine Larbalestier in 2001.
No kids; no plans for kids.

We split our time between Sydney, Australia and New York City. (Summers only, thank you.)
Grew up in Texas, California, Connecticut
My dad was a computer programmer in the 1960s-70s, when computers were as big as a house and came with a bunch of people to make them do stuff. He worked for Univac in its various forms, and we lived in Houston for the Apollo missions, in California for Boeing, and Connecticut for submarines, etc.

Education: Arts Magnet High School, Dallas, Texas; Vassar Philosophy BA in 1985
New York University, graduate work in Performance Studies
Jobs held; factory worker (making lead soldiers!), substitute teacher, textbook editor, software designer, ghost writer

| ©2004 - Rhode Island Teen Book Award Committee | Aaron Coutu, Chair