Paper Planes by Allayne L. Webster
Published by Scholastic Australia
I have never travelled to Sarajevo, Bosnia, but novelist Allayne L. Webster made me feel as though I was there in 1992, alongside Niko and his family, trying to survive the war that ravaged the country. The story outlines the hardships endured by the Dobesh family and their determination to survive.
The story begins with the family receiving a phone call warning them about the impending war. Niko rushes onto their apartment’s balcony and all is quiet…too quiet. The bustling city is deserted, with only a single paper plane floating in the wind. Within minutes the view changes as armoured trucks arrive, and soldiers assist the hundreds of people into the vehicles. The Dobesh family makes the decision to stay in their homeland and brace themselves for what is to come.
The reader experiences the story through the eyes of Niko, a frightened boy who allows the reader to see what he sees, and feel what he feels. He is only eleven when the first bomb hits and his innocence is highlighted when he asks his family whether they will wake up dead if they are bombed in their sleep.
Nedim lives on the third floor of the apartment block. He is Niko’s best friend and Niko is relieved when he learns that the Mujanovic family has also decided to stay behind in Bosnia. Niko and Nedim pass the time by reflecting on their old lives, but they both learn quite quickly that life in Sarajevo will never be the same again. The boys demonstrate the true meaning of friendship and they work together to overcome the many dangers they face.
A continuous theme throughout the story is strength and hope, and this is demonstrated by all characters, but especially by the Dobesh and Mujanovic families. These families also prove that differences in religious and cultural traditions should not dictate people’s relationships with one another, or determine who should live and who should die. Despite their differences, Niko and Nedim have an everlasting friendship, sealed by their secret handshake and code word. The note at the end of the story is very special and I thank Jarko (Niko’s older brother) for sharing his story.
Paper Planes is a wonderful text based on real events. It educates the reader on historical events and is a great book to introduce students to the topic of refugees.
CKT Book Reviewer
Author: Allayne L. Webster
Title: Paper Planes
Publisher: Scholastic Australia
Published: September 2014