Rooftoppers is a wonderful novel from Katherine Rundell (The Wolf Wilder), her lyrical voice brings to life intriguing characters, and a hypnotic world …. accompanied by a fabulous opening line;

‘On the morning of its first birthday, a baby was found floating in a cello case in the middle of the English Channel.’

This baby is discovered by scholar Charles Maxim, a fellow passenger from the Victorian liner that has sunk in the middle of the ocean. Rundell’s depiction of Charles is one of the highlights of this novel – she has created a truly quirky and eccentric personality with wonderful deftness.

‘he had kindness where other people had lungs, and politeness in his fingertips.’

He is far from a stereotypical maternal type, and has to battle against protestations of ‘A man can’t do this kind of thing alone.’ from the childcare agency, yet he cares for Sophie – as he names her – in his own wonderful manner.

‘I’m going to love her. That should be enough, if the poetry I’ve read is anything to go by.’  

Brushed hair, a neat appearance are just not important – a knowledge of life, of music and books takes a much higher priority. Charles ignores the stuffy rules of society in a quirky manner that readers will adore.

Despite the lack of evidence, Sophie remains convinced that her mother did survive that ship all those years ago. 

A very real threat from the childcare agency to remove Sophie from Charles’ care, combined with one of Charles’ mottos – ‘Never ignore a possible’ – encourage the pair to escape to Paris in a bid to locate Sophie’s mum.

Cue a distinct change of pace in the novel.

It is here that Katherine Rundell exploits her ability to create a hypnotic mood and atmosphere. Sophie discovers a whole new angle to life in the French capital, when she steps through the skylight in her bedroom.

Rundell presents the reader with a world that is simultaneously magical and poignant, the roof toppers being the children living on the roofs of Paris in order to escape life on the streets. Here Sophie, and indeed Charles, become entangled in a whole new world which helps them on their incredible journey.

Young readers are going to adore this novel – great writing with a unique twist that will pull them into the world Katherine has created. 

In the words of Charles himself;

‘It’s the things you read at the age you are now which stick. Books crow-bar the world open for you.’

Rooftoppers is a shortlisted novel in the Blue Peter Book Awards 2014.


Katherine Rundell
Simon & Schuster

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