Review: Rooftoppers – Katherine Rundell

RooftoppersSynopsis from Goodreads.
My mother is still alive, and she is going to come for me one day.

Everyone thinks that Sophie is an orphan. True, there were no other recorded female survivors from the shipwreck which left baby Sophie floating in the English Channel in a cello case, but Sophie remembers seeing her mother wave for help. Her guardian tells her it is almost impossible that her mother is still alive, but that means still possible. You should never ignore a possible.

So when the Welfare Agency writes to her guardian threatening to send Sophie to an orphanage, she takes matters into her own hands and flees to Paris to look for her mother, starting with the only clue she has – the address of the cello maker.

Evading the French authorities, she meets Matteo and his network of rooftoppers – urchins who live in the sky. Together they scour the city for Sophie’s mother before she is caught and sent back to London, and most importantly before she loses hope.

I feel it would take quite a bit to make me want to scramble around on Parisian rooftops. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not scared of heights in any way, and the views… well, they’d be pretty incredible, wouldn’t they?

But the more you think about, the less romantic it is. I mean, they’re probably really dirty and well, if you fell you’d pretty much be smushed and don’t even get me started on the pigeons. I can only just deal with the pigeons when I’m walking on solid ground but if I’m balancing on a weathervane and a pigeon flies at me?

I will freak the feck out.

I said it would take quite a bit to make me want to scramble around on Parisian rooftops, but actually, all it’s taken is reading Rooftoppers.

I don’t really have that much to say about this book because I just really enjoyed it and it’s pretty much as simple as that. From the first line [ “On the morning of its first birthday, a baby was found floating in a cello case in the middle of the English Channel” ] I was tangled up in this gorgeous, unique and extremely heart-warming story about a girl with hair the colour of lightning who is searching for her mum after being rescued from a sinking ship by an eccentric man named Charles*.

I have to talk about the writing first because it was, without a doubt, my favourite part of the book. It was so delightfully odd without being weird for the sake of being weird. I could go on for a bit and tell you, using fancy words and gushing praise, how much I loved the writing but I’m pretty knackered and my tea’s gone cold so I’m just going to give you examples.

“Think of night-time with a speaking voice. Or think how moonlight might talk, or think of ink, if ink had vocal chords.”

“It was the green that emeralds and dragons usually come in; which felt to Sophie like a good omen.”

“They did not taste remotely like strawberries, but they did taste like adventure.”


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 think the language and the style of the book perfectly complimented Sophie’s rather strange upbringing and the fantastic and slightly naïve way she interprets what’s happening around her. She was a gorgeous narrator and definitely one of my favourite middle grade heroines. Fearless, inquisitive and completely adorable; she truly was brilliant.

And the setting? Let’s just say I want to go to Paris again…. now please. I adore Paris and it will always have a special place in my heart so it was so refreshing to read a story set there that wasn’t immediately bogged down by all the clichés that seem to latch themselves onto it. It was lovely to read about the city from a different perspective… one slightly higher than the others, shall we say?

When I was reading it and I was whisked away to Ms Rundell’s dreamlike Paris where the streets are still cobbled and the streetlights are being lit by hand, I couldn’t help but think of the film The Illusionist. Except Rooftoppers had a much happier and incredibly delightful ending.

So yeah, OK, I actually did have a lot to say about this book. But I really, really loved it and I really hope other people join Sophie for her adventure because it’s truly magical. I absolutely can’t wait to see where else Ms Rundell’s stories takes me.

[Pssst… it’s dead cheap on Kindle at the moment!]

*This isn’t part of the review but !!!! oh Charles, let’s go on adventures! You’re magnificent and I adore your mind.

10 thoughts on “Review: Rooftoppers – Katherine Rundell

  1. I really hope this one’s still on offer as I saw it the other day, but didn’t buy it, fool that I am. Do you know I’ve never been to Paris? The shame.
    The pigeons! I didn’t even think about the pigeons. Never ever going on a rooftop. Not in a million years.

    • I think you’ll love this one, Anna! It’s such a lovely story and very different.

      There is pigeons though…. flappy ones. O.O

      Haven’t you? I’ve been three times but when I was really younger. Let’s go. NOW.

  2. I’ve never heard of this until now, so thanks, Jo! I adore that cover, and almost wanted to hold out on getting a physical copy so I could do a mani to match but I caved and bought the Kindle version – thanks for the heads up.

    The premise is so unique and now I’m intrigued as to if she finds her mum and about this Charles fellow ;)

  3. This sounds absolutely gorgeous! But I totally get the whole pigeon thing. I despise pigeons!

    Also, the rooftop concept just totally reminded me of the dancing chimney-sweeps in Mary Poppins. I love that movie!

  4. Pigeons are nothin’ but flying rats! This book sounds so gorgeous. I’m always looking for an excuse to go back to Paris. Until I can afford a plane ticket, a book will have to do. And of course it’s not available in the States yet! Damn publishing pigeons. Anyway. Lovely, lovely review, Jo. :)

  5. The writing is so odd…but in a good way :P I have never actually been to Paris but if I ever do go there I just might decide to walk on the rooftops. I just have to make sure I don’t run into any pigeons. I can take crows, ravens, and many other birds, but not pigeons. Their eyes scare the daylights out of me.
    I am rambling so I am going to stop and say that your review is wonderful.
    Wonderful review, Jo!

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