Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell - a fantasy on the roofs of Paris

Title: Rooftoppers
Author: Katherine Rundell
Illustrator: Terry Fan
Publication: Simon & Schuster, hardcover, 2013
Genre: Middle-grade fiction
Setting: Paris
Description: As a baby, Sophie was found floating in a cello case after a shipwreck in the middle of the English Channel. With no surviving parent, she is adopted by Charles Maxim, an impecunious scholar who was on the ship. He brings up Sophie at his London home and teaches her perfect manners and to love music. Most of all, he gives her the freedom to be herself. However, Sophie yearns for her mother and is convinced she is still alive somewhere. When social services asserts Charles is not a suitable guardian for a girl approaching adolescence and threatens to remove her, Charles and Sophie follow a clue to France in what seems a hopeless search for her mother. Through Sophie’s love of climbing, she discovers the children who live on the rooftops of Paris, and seeks her mother with their assistance and Charles’ selfless love.

My Impression: Is it a fantasy or is it whimsical historical fiction in the tradition of Joan Aiken or Eva Ibbotson (two of my favorites)? I was intrigued when someone recently mentioned Rooftoppers, which I’d never heard of, in the same sentence as Ballet Shoes, and a story set on the rooftops of Paris seemed appropriate as I am heading to Paris next month (assuming France stays open, etc.) so here we are!
I enjoyed the lyrical storytelling and the vivid characters but, most of all, I liked the eccentric bachelor who rescues the orphaned one-year-old and values her individuality:
“I love the sky.” Sophie said it one night without thinking, at dinner. She bit her tongue; other girls laughed if you said things like that.

But Charles only laid a slice of pork lie on the Bible and nodded. He said, “I’m glad.” He added a dollop of mustard and handed Sophie the book. “Only weak thinkers do not love the sky.”

Almost as soon as she could walk, Sophie could climb. She started with the trees, which are the quickest route to the sky. Charles came with her. He was not a “No, don’t; hold tighter” sort of man. He stood underneath her and shouted. “Higher, Sophie! Yes, bravo! Watch out for the birds! Birds look wonderful from underneath!”
Charles will do whatever it takes to help Sophie find her mother although (a) he is convinced the woman is dead and (b) it will break his heart to lose his adopted child.  When I finally got around to reading this, I enjoyed it although I thought the plot could have been more developed. Rooftoppers is book 13 of my 20 Books of Summer.  And I suppose it is a fantasy or all these children would have fallen from the roofs to their death.
Source: Library


Lark said...

This sounds so fun! but then, children living on the rooftops of Paris? I'm totally in for that. :D

Lex @ Lexlingua said...

I guess the rooftops afford a better view of Paris? ;-D This reminded me of those old Scholastic Books, they had quite the range.

CLM said...

Don't do this at home!