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Rooftoppers Paperback – 7 Mar 2013
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A writer with an utterly distinctive voice and a wild imagination (Philip Pullman 2013-01-18)
I enjoyed it tremendously... An ultra stylish writer with a true gift for imaginative storytelling. The next time I go to Paris I will be looking up at the rooftops. (Jacqueline Wilson)
A rare and remarkable treat, witty and full of original thoughts ... This quirky book advocates curiosity, thoughtfulness, freedom and courage. (Nicolette Jones Sunday Times)
Rooftoppers takes its cue from the French film Amelie. It's set in a not-quite-real, possibly 19th-century world where winsomeness is the order of the day as an orphaned girl searches for her cellist mother among the rooftops of Paris ... dreamy kids will love it (Daily Telegraph)
There is a wistful, old-fashioned charm to Katherine Rundell's second novel: her poetic language and imaginative approach set this book apart from many other adventure stories for this age group. Whimsical, beautifully-written and as carefully balanced as the tightrope Sophie learns to walk, Rooftoppers is a sensitive and emotionally-resonant novel with an uplifting message about the power of hope. (Booktrust)
RecallingThe Invention of Hugo Cabret, the gripping Rooftoppers, is set partly among the feral orphans living in Paris's night sky, and comes recommended by Philip Pullman. (Kate Kellaway Observer)
Charles Maxim brings Sophie up to write on wallpaper and have the occasional nip of whisky ... Rundell writes with a similar disregard for convention - the childcare officer has a voice "like a window slamming shut" - so your children may dare to live dangerously, but at least they'll steer clear of clichés. (Dinah Hall Daily Telegraph)
Love and courage turn out to be two words for the same thing. Sophie learns to value and retain the strangeness she was born with and, in holding on to her child's ability to believe in the extraordinary, to "never ignore a possible". (Guardian 2013-05-18)
A wonderfully told and vividly imagined story of love, hope and friendship (Families Online)
I think it takes a certain kind of writer who can make the ordinary seem extraordinary with a few sentences and capture your imagination and encourage you, if only for a little while, to see the world in a slightly different way than you'd normally do. And Ms Rundell's definitely that kind of writer ... I really hope other people join Sophie for her adventure because it's truly magical. (Wear The Old Coat Blog)
Hailed as an instant classic of children's literature, Katherine Rundell's award-winning adventure Rooftoppers takes to the rooftops of Victorian Paris to prove that anything is possible.See all Product description
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When Sophie turns twelve and the state moves into split them up saying that it is not proper for a single gentleman to raise a girl on his own. Despite their best attempt to portray themselves as a normal family the state's firm in their decision.
Sophie, meanwhile, feels that she has to find her mother and events arrange themselves in such a way that allows Charles and Sophie to go to Paris in search of Sophie's mother. Never ignore a possible.
There Sophie meets with Matteo and the other rooftoppers, orphan children who have decided that they were better off on their own in the streets than in an orphanage. They help locate Sophie's mother braving the dizzying heights, the authorities, the railroad boys, and ice cold water.
The thing that captivated me was the rooftops themselves. Having grown up in a colony with narrow streets and wall to wall houses, I've jumped from one roof to another and so on both in search of the cricket balls that we inevitably manage to hit and adventure. The way the children traveled nearly all of Pairs on rooftops flooded me with scenes from my own childhood.
Kathrine Rundell gives us a child's search for her mother in this sweet tale. The language's simple, yet beautiful. And the message - never ignore a possible, is universal.
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Not for the world would I describe any of the narrative plot much less the details of the characters, THAT is for you to savor, and do yourself that small delight, savor every page. The author has such a unique turn of phrase, with unexpected associations that are meant to be both charming and disarming, that you find yourself being lured into a dream state so beautiful that to over-think it would be to spoil it.
So I will not. The manner of writing, its seductive and often wry way with words reminded me at times of a singular novel, Le Grand Meaulnes by Henry Alain-Fournier who disappeared (literally) in the carnage of Verdun in WW1 has the same delicacy and wistfulness (and which manages to translate even into English! BUT if possible, read it in French, or a variety of translations for cross-reference). Rundell has the same poetic nobility, yet as her audience is the "8 to 12" bracket there is also a sweetness and lightheartedness that Fournier I suspect never experienced in his own life and so only shows up in his female muse in that novel.
We are so much the more fortunate, Charles and Sophie are as genuinely endearing as Scout and her father Atticus, possibly the only other father-daughter duo that can match Rundell's pair.
Should you need further evidence to persuade you I offer Rundell herself:
"... (the baby) was wrapped for warmth in the musical score of a Beethoven symphony ... he noticed that it was a girl, with hair the color of lightning, and the smile of a shy person..." (p.2)
" ... he spoke English to people and French to cats and Latin to the birds..." (p.4)
"... I like my icing to be extravagant" (says the toddler Sophie, p. 9)
"... the more words in a house the better, Miss Eliot" (Charles to the busybody government child welfare agent, pg. 19)
" ... the cello sing, Charles! ... It feels like home. Do you see what I mean? Like fresh air!" (Sophie discovering the cello, p. 25)
" ... only weak thinkers do not love the sky" (Charles to his rooftop enthusiast, Sophie, p. 26)
and on and on it goes, and just when you think Rundell can't possibly make it any more achingly beautiful or touching or winsome she does:
"... it was bread rolls, four of them, soft in the middle and dusted with flour at the top. They were still warm from the oven, and they smelled of blue skies ... I always used to think," said Sophie, "that if love had a smell it would smell like hot bread ..." (Sophie in Paris... p. 185)
Some things are better left unexplained. And so, just how Rundell came up with baby Sophie and her quirky Charles and the quest for her missing mother, well, that is for another reviewer, I will just say grab this awesome book and curl up in a warm blanket on a dreary rainy day and let yourself run loose on the rooftops of Paris with a very special friend in Sophie.
In time you might even let your kids or students read it. Share the magic.
The story begins with the sinking of an English ship named the Queen Mary and the rescue by one survivor of another. A 36yo English bachelor named Charles Maxim rescues a cute little baby girl with platinum blond hair he describes as the color of lightning. He becomes her legal guardian and names her Sophie Maxim. Although they are not rich in finances, they are rich in the love they have for each other as they are all that each of them has. Sophie is a precocious child and is home schooled by Charles when he thinks to give her any lessons. She loves him and wants to do everything he does, so to keep her from drinking any of his whiskey, he pours it into a plain bottle and labels it Cat's Urine. The inquisitive. little Sophie smells it and then smells the backside of their cat and proclaims they didn't smell much alike to her. ;-) Things work out pretty well for the duo until Sophie turns 12, at which time, the Welfare agency says she will be sent away to an orphanage until she is 18, since Charles is not a blood relative and they didn't think it was proper for a single man to be in charge of a young woman of impressionable age. Both Sophie and Charles agree this is about the dumbest thing they have ever heard, so high-tail it to Paris to try and find her mother if she is even still alive. They pick Paris since that is where the Queen Mary sailed from before it sunk.
The first part of the book is devoted to Sophie and Charles loving relationship as she grows up from a 1yo to the age of 12. The second part then takes place in Paris as she and Charles try to find her mother. In their quest, while staying at a flea-bag hotel to try and avoid detection from the authorities who are looking for both of them, Sophie meets a young teen orphan named Matteo, who escaped an orphanage some years ago and lives on the rooftops of Parisian buildings along with some other orphaned teens, which is where the books title comes from.
Sophie, Matteo, and the other teen ROOFTOPPERS have numerous scary episodes [including a big fight with a rival teen gang that lives in the train station] while clambering along the roofs, using them as a vantage point to search for Sophie's mother. They think her mother's name is Vivienne Vert which translates to Green in English, but no FEMALE passengers or crew members survived from the sinking Queen Mary, but Sophie won't give up. Meanwhile the authorities are closing in trying to put Sophie in an orphanage and Charles in jail for evading the law.
There is enough angst to keep the average teen turning pages to find out what happens to Sophie and Matteo. Part of the plot involves a possible corrupt scheme by the Parisian Police Commissioner to conspire to sink ships and collect the insurance money on them. But a major plot point is the playing of Flaume's Requiem at double time speed on the cello. I don't wish to go further to spoil the final denouement for the reader. Let me say that the story is highly improbable, but has just enough believability in it to keep the average reader turning the pages till the end. A nice book for tweens and teens.
I'm sure it will be -- I loved it.
The protagonist, Sophie, was rescued from a sinking ship by an English scholar named Charles Maxim. He loved and cared for her, but not the way a woman "should" be raised in the 1890's in London. The state is threatening to take Sophie away, but suddenly Sophie and Charles are making their way to Paris for a search for Sophie's presumed-dead mother. That's when the story really gets interesting as Sophie meets Matteo, an orphan who lives on the rooftops of Parisian homes and businesses. Sophie, now 13, joins in and discovers new wonders in the European city.
The story is told in a wonderful style, much like the Lemony Snicket books, just without the sense of doom and gloom that hung over each word. Instead, there was a sense of joy and wonder, even when Sophie was nearly taken away from the only parent she'd ever known.
I thought the author did a wonderful job of not chasing after storylines that would have been very logical, but would have taken away from the innocence and childlike text. Insurance fraud, murder and police cover-ups are all mentioned, but only briefly as the story quickly moves on like a child would expect.
Terrific book and I'll be passing it on to my daughter next!