The paper airplane

written, illustrated and designed by Ricardo Azevedo
translated by Paulo Henrique Britto


I’ve always fancied the idea of placing a message in a bottle and throwing it into the sea. The bottle drifts away, and who knows if one day, on the opposite side of the world. someone will find it, open it, and read the message? A book is a bit like a bottle with a message in it, drifting in the sea. Writers have an idea mixed with a feeling. They sit down before their typewriters and get everything they have to say on paper. Then they take their manuscripts to their publishers, their books are published and then placed for sale in bookstores. In fact, a bookstore is somewhat like a sea full of bottles, each one with its message inside. So many beautiful books! So many colourful covers! So many different ideas about life and the world! But one particular book among others may lie on its shelf for months on end, gathering dust, ignored by everyone. Until one day – and that day always comes – a reader will walk in, leaf through a number of books, and then pick up that particular book, in the darkest corner of the shelf, behind the door, and buy it. Then the reader will take the book home, sit in the most comfortable armchair he or she has, put on his or her glasses and begin to read. A book comes alive when it is read. It is only then that it fulfils its destiny and achieves its full meaning. A bottle tossed into the ocean is like a book, and a book is like a paper airplane flung out the window. For the paper airplane, if it is lucky, may reach a distant destination, carrying within its folds an idea, a memory, a feeling.

The Author

P.S.: When this book was being published, we had the idea of including an additional leaf in the middle. Dear reader: Please detach this extra leaf carefully, write your message on it, make a perfect airplane with it and send it flying out your window. Who knows if it will reach the other side of the world someday?


A man opens his window and hurls out a paper airplane, which dashes off bravely, facing the wide open spaces.
The airplane was made from a sheet ripped out of a notebook.
Come to think of it, the life of a paper airplane has almost everything in it: peace and quiet, astonishment, beauty. And no wonder. Think of such a fragile being flying in the sky!
The little airplane flies on its paper wings, buoyed up by a bit of hope and by the invisible arms of the wind.

Its flight is like that of a leaf that drops from a tree and gently wafts off, carried by the breeze.
Or like the journey of a bottle flung out into the sea, drifting in the waves.
Or like the wanderings of a vagabond who sets off on a journey with no fixed destination.
On a journey like this, you never know where you will end up, or what will happen to you.
But the airplane is already on the wing, and it can’t afford to waste time on fears and misgivings. There it is, lofty and splendid, high above the land.

“So many things in the world!” it exclaims in amazement. “It really makes you wonder,” it thinks. Before becoming an airplane, it was a notebook sheet with hardly anything written on it, so it didn’t really know a thing.
And along its way it will come across, say, a heart carved in the rough bark of a tree.
And one leather shoe thrown by someone in the heat of a quarrel.
And a flying fish leaping away from ocean to ocean.
And a flower, and a grand piano, and a clock that has stopped, and a ladybug, and two roads, and a secret hidden behind a rock, and a hardbound book, and an apple, and a pencil, and a bookworm, and an egg, and an envelope with a letter inside, and a revolver bullet, perhaps left behind by a soldier.

And far away the paper airplane sees a locomotive. Also an instruction manual, a factory, a plume of smoke, a ruler, a package of cream cheese, a highway, a parcel tied with string, a bottle of a cough syrup, a key, a sheet of graph paper, a recipe, a magnifying glass, and an old mechanical movie camera, of the sort they used to make silent movies with.
The paper airplane sees a suitcase too.
“Of course! Surely it belongs to another traveller!” it thinks, proudly. “Another traveller like me!”
But the wind… ah, the wind!
The wind is full of unpredictable tricks.
Now it blows softly, a friendly breeze.
Now it hisses rather sharply.
All of a sudden it roars in anger.
And so the paper airplane finds itself among swift-flying clouds and gusts and puffs and gales and wails and groans and moans and hisses, and as it turns and tosses and spins and falls so fast it has no time to say: “Good-bye, I’m leaving, never to come back again.”

When it came to, it could hardly tell whether it was dead or alive.
Or whether it was an airplane or a notebook leaf or just a crumpled piece of waste paper.
It was awakened by a whistle: tweet, tweet, tweet -
It was a boy who came sauntering down, whistling along the way..
He picked up the airplane. He looked at it closely. He checked it out, straightened its wings and its tip, and refolded it.
Then he went to the brink of a cliff and set the paper airplane flying once again, away into space.
And he stood there, arms akimbo, watching the plane until it disappeared in the distance.

It’s so much fun to fly!
It’s such a great sensation to feel light and free!
And you meet so many other fliers along your way!
“Good morning, butterfly!”
“Well, what do you know, a flying bull!”
“Hey, Superman! Long time no see!”
And the paper airplane, laughing and fooling around, plunged into the world of flying creatures.
He flew past planets, moths, pebbles flung from slingshots, flies, shooting stars, a goose quill, an H-bomb, a flying saucer, a wasp, a soccer ball, a real airplane, a homing pigeon, a jet of water, a parachutist, a kite, a guardian angel, a leaf, a helicopter, a balloon, even a hundred-dollar bill senselessly tossing and turning in the wind.

Time flew as well.
The air grew heavier. The day grew thicker.
The paper airplane felt a great energy spreads its hand over the afternoon.
After turning a corner in space, it realized it was flying over the immense mass of water that covers most of the world: the sea.
And in the sea was a faraway island, and on the island there was a lighthouse, and the lighthouse showed the way, and the paper airplane decided to follow it.

And it found itself in a city with buildings thirty-two floors high.
And there were avenues and sidewalks and lampposts and squares and streets and traffic.
And the airplane saw people.
There were athletes, ballerinas, beggars, burglars, businessmen, clergymen, doctors, engineers, factory workers, gardeners, generals, hawkers, housewives, lovers, newsboys, poets, rock musicians, senators, senior citizens, servants, soldiers, storekeepers, students, teachers, unemployed workers, and as the night buttoned up its long dark coat the paper airplane began to coast down, lower and lower, until it landed softly on a flower.

The flower was red and it smelled sweetly.
Really, it couldn’t possibly have turned out better!
Somebody came and picked up the paper airplane.
Somebody examined it inside and out.
Somebody then smiled.
Something was written on the sheet ripped out of a notebook.
Just a few words, but enough to make the paper airplane realize that at last it had reached its true destination.


(Back cover) A paper airplane throw out the window is off on a journey full of sights, surprises, meetings, chance, and beauty, until one days it reaches its destination.