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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Charming (award-winning) fairy tale with strong characters
I only heard of this when it made one of the major children's award shortlists (update April 2014: it won the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize) but I'm very glad I gave it a go, as Rundell has created some wonderfully original and charming characters within a sweet story.

Surviving a shipwreck on her first birthday, Sophie is rescued and taken in by Charles, a...
Published 9 months ago by K. J. Noyes

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Just about good enough to gloss over the gaping gaps between rooftops
I have been reading several children's books a week for fifty years, and professionally for thirty, often for review. I stand by my sense that, whoever the book is aimed at and whatever its subject matter, if has the potential to grab me and hold me and that's what makes me sit up and take notice. This one didn't quite manage to do that, even though, as someone who...
Published 4 months ago by The Librarian


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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Charming (award-winning) fairy tale with strong characters, 23 Nov 2013
By 
K. J. Noyes "Katy Noyes" (Derbyshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Rooftoppers (Paperback)
I only heard of this when it made one of the major children's award shortlists (update April 2014: it won the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize) but I'm very glad I gave it a go, as Rundell has created some wonderfully original and charming characters within a sweet story.

Surviving a shipwreck on her first birthday, Sophie is rescued and taken in by Charles, a single man who lives by his own rules. Growing up happily with his love and care, Sophie never gives up the belief that her mother, who she remembers to be a trouser-wearing, cello-playing musician, survived the shipwreck too. When social services threaten to take her away from Charles, they decide to try and track down Sophie's mother, meeting an interesting young roof-dweller along the way...

Charles and Sophie are adorable, their relationship warm and enviable. The story takes unexpected turns but is a lovely fairy tale with a strong female lead and lots of interest in its Parisian setting, on the roofs, even with a rooftop battle.

Deservedly shortlisted for awards, it's a little gem that should appeal to both genders.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Just about good enough to gloss over the gaping gaps between rooftops, 18 May 2014
This review is from: Rooftoppers (Paperback)
I have been reading several children's books a week for fifty years, and professionally for thirty, often for review. I stand by my sense that, whoever the book is aimed at and whatever its subject matter, if has the potential to grab me and hold me and that's what makes me sit up and take notice. This one didn't quite manage to do that, even though, as someone who suffers from terrible vertigo, much of the high-rise stuff was so well- written that I could hardly bear it and my palms were sweaty! It is an old- fashioned book in the best sense, in the manner of I, Coriander and The Thief Lord. Children who've read it in school have adored it, though it's a little too whimsical for my taste. I think, however, that what is missing here is a decent editor. As other reviewers have pointed out, there are grammatical and spelling errors ?
( practise as a noun in an English children's book? Are we wasting our damned time in school, then?) But, more importantly, there are glaring gaps in continuity in the text. The worst of these is when Sophie revisits Matteo on his rooftop with the food. On the first visit, she has to cross a tightrope strung between buildings, clinging to him for balance. The next night, this extraordinary obstacle apparently no longer exists, as she discovers him already on his roof, her journey to get there suddenly irrelevant. This is not the only place where the impression is given of chunks of text having been removed and the gaps not sewn up.
If there's one thing I know, it's that the more incredible your story, the more consistent you must be with your version of reality. This is what makes Diana Wynne Jones, Joan Aiken et al the genii they are and what makes J.K. Rowling so successful. She may have other faults but she would never countenance such an inconsistency. I doubt if it's the writer's fault and I'm shocked that Faber, of all publishers, is so lackadaisical.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Charmingly quaint, 15 May 2013
This review is from: Rooftoppers (Paperback)
This is a lovely story, set mostly in Paris, with a quaint, tender atmosphere. The language is beautiful and the images very striking and original. Mouth-watering descriptions of food! It is one of these 'quiet' types of children's books which are such a breath of fresh air in the midst of all these dystopias and post-apocalyptic stories.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Whimsical, feel-good adventure, 13 April 2014
This review is from: Rooftoppers (Paperback)
After a tragic shipwreck, a baby girl is discovered floating on the ocean in a cello case. Her rescuer, shabby and kindly academic Charles Maxim, names her Sophie (on account of the fact that after such a dramatic day, 'it might be best to have the most ordinary name available'), and becomes her unlikely guardian. Miss Eliot, the interfering, prim-and-proper official from the National Childcare Agency, does not approve of a single man bringing up a girl-child without help - but reluctantly agrees to let him try, on the condition that she pays regular visits to see how they are getting on.

The upbringing Charles gives Sophie is certainly unconventional - due to Sophie's plate-breaking tendencies, the pair eat off hardback editions of classic books - but also magical. He encourages her to write messages on the wallpaper, to practise playing her cello on the rooftop, and to never ignore life's possibles.

One of those 'possibles' is, of course, Sophie's mother. Records state there were no surviving women from the shipwreck, but Sophie believes that one day she will find her mother again. When the Childcare Agency threatens to remove Sophie from Charles's care, Sophie discovers an important clue as to her mother's whereabouts, and she and Charles escape to Paris to try and find her. Here, Sophie will encounter corrupt officials, a kindly shop-owner, and a world of half-wild children who live hand-to-mouth on the rooftops of the French capital. With time running out, and with the help (and hindrance) of Matteo and the other rooftop children, Sophie and Charles must try and track down Sophie's mother before they are caught by the authorities and brought back to England...

I truly enjoyed this whimsical, quick-paced read. The writing is witty and lyrical - at times, perhaps, a little too lyrical (I grew a little tired of hearing that Sophie's hair was 'the colour of a lightning bolt') - with a very fairy-tale-ish feel. I admit, I did think that there would be something actually supernatural going on - the frequency with which Sophie broke plates was the red herring which misled me here - and I felt a touch cheated that there wasn't, as it seemed that it was just a good excuse for the author to have Sophie and Charles dining off classic texts.

I imagine that Katherine Rundell is a fan of Diana Wynne Jones, as there are definitely Wynne-Jones-ian echoes in her writing, particularly of the novel Fire and Hemlock - I recognised Polly in Sophie's badly knotted blonde hair, and I saw Polly's older male friend, Tom Lynn, the gangly cellist and voracious reader, in the long-legged Charles who introduces Sophie to a love of both books and cellos. However, that's not to say that the story is anything like Fire and Hemlock - it isn't - and I just enjoyed having a secret smile to myself as I spotted the connections.

It's a lovely book - funny, and heartwarming, and full of imagination, and packed to the brim with positive role models for children. I'm a primary teacher, and I would have no hesitation in reading this book to my class. They would, in particular, adore the gritty descriptions of life lived out on a Parisian rooftop - not least the parts about going to the toilet! I also loved how supportive Charles was of Sophie, including sewing her four pairs of trousers when she expresses her dislike for skirts. It's a book that has its heart in the right place, and I will be happily recommending it to all the children I know!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A lovely book, 13 April 2013
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This review is from: Rooftoppers (Paperback)
I really enjoyed this book about a young orphan girl taken in by an eccentric man.
From shipwrecks to running across Paris rooftops to sneaking into government buildings this was a great read, thoroughly enjoyable for all ages.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ok, 18 April 2014
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This review is from: Rooftoppers (Kindle Edition)
I am amazed this won the Waterstones Children's Fiction Prize. It's a nice quirkyish novel but the ending is rather abruptand wouldn't be surprised if in the current climate, it's leading to more novel, but the novel is essentially unresolved beyond the basic idea. I was rather disappointed unfortunately but I'm sure some children will enjoy it even if it might give them some dodgy ideas about roof topping!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars beautiful, lyrical and may lead to book addiction, 10 July 2014
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This review is from: Rooftoppers (Paperback)
An absolutely beautiful read with a poetic, almost lyrical quality. This is the book that truly opened up the magic of fiction for my 10 year old, when all others had failed, leading to a rather serious (& slightly expensive) book addiction. My 8 year old & I also adored it. IMO every child should read this. Then pass it on to their parents to read. Best compared to The Secret Garden.

Dangers:- Book addiction (with side effects of enjoyment, improved vocabulary, expense, peace & quiet); cello fascination; ambitions to be an academic (or gymnast); interest in all things Paris.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly Amazing, 26 Mar 2014
This review is from: Rooftoppers (Kindle Edition)
As soon as I started to read this book, Icould not get my head out of it- I was so engaged.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Young people living among the roof tops of Paris., 27 April 2013
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This review is from: Rooftoppers (Kindle Edition)
Almost a fairy tale read concerning youngsters who avoided social care by living on the roof tops of Paris and helping out a teenager find her mother.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A revelation, 19 July 2014
This review is from: Rooftoppers (Paperback)
I am a teacher in an area of deprivation and first discovered this book when my class of 9-10 year olds participated in voting for the winner of the Blue Peter Children's Book Awards. I can honestly say that this book, so beautifully written, has transformed many of the children's relationships with not only reading but writing; children who rarely if ever read at home were totally hooked on the story and desperate for the next instalment, and the book has served as a rich stimulus for even the most reluctant writer. The prose and the characters are beautiful and powerful in equal measure and I have bought this book for several (adult!) friends since reading it. The most influential children's fiction I have come across as a teacher.
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