Rooftoppers

Common Sense Media says

Soaring, quirky adventure has unforgettable characters.

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 
ALA Best and Notable Books

What parents need to know

Educational value
Charles is a scholar, and his life with Sophie is culturally rich. Curious readers may be intrigued by references to Shakespearean plays, Fauré's Requiem in D minor, and landmarks like Notre Dame, and they may pick up some French expressions. 
 
Positive messages
"Never ignore life's possibles," Charles teaches Sophie. Some rules may be bent -- and even broken -- if they stand in the way of fairness. People find happiness and comfort in their own ways, Rooftoppers suggests, even though their choices may befuddle observers.
Positive role models
Sophie is resourceful and independent, confident in who she is and loyal to those she loves. She does break into police headquarters to steal a file, but it's to correct an injustice. She's unfailingly polite, even to those who treat her with disrespect. Charles lovingly encourages Sophie's independence and moxie. 
 
Violence & scariness
Matteo lost a fingertip and earned a scar in a fight. He and Sophie and their friends get into an ugly fight with a gang. Matteo kills small animals such as pigeons and rats for food, and in one scene he's cooking a skinned rat.
 
Language

Sophie sometimes says "damn."

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Rooftoppers is a captivating adventure set in turn-of-the-20th-century London and Paris that includes intense violence among children -- one child recounts a battle in which he lost a fingertip and a rival lost an arm, and two groups of kids face off in a vicious fight. The rooftoppers live a gritty existence above the streets. They're presented as admirably resourceful and free, but they aren't glorified. The story really celebrates family, love, and the magic of possibilities. Sophie and her adoptive father, Charles, break some laws but with good reason. Charles appreciates whiskey and pours Sophie a drink when he prepares to share bad news.
 

 

Parents say

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Kids say

What's the story?

After a ship sinks in the English Channel, bookish bachelor Charles Maxim finds the last survivor: a 1-year-old girl floating in a cello case. He names her Sophie and brings her to his London home to raise her with love and plenty of Shakespeare. Miss Eliot of the National Childcare Agency visits weekly and is horrified by Sophie's tangled hair, boys' trousers, and meals served on books (Sophie tends to break plates). When Sophie is 12, she's to be sent to an orphanage. So Charles and Sophie follow a clue to hunt for her mother in Paris. Menaced by police, Sophie takes to the rooftops and encounters a secret and dangerous world where children live proudly and ably on their own, high above the pavement.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

ROOFTOPPERS is a captivating read packed with tiny delights: an astonishing scene wherein birds are fed atop a tightrope, Charles' dismissal of bureaucrats as "mustaches with idiots attached," ice cream enjoyed in the rain on the outside box of a horse-drawn carriage. Author Katherine Rundell celebrates eccentric, resilient people who are happy to live on the margins of respectable society. Unorthodox people, of course, have unorthodox adventures, and Sophie's is a magical journey.

Rundell's writing is lyrical and clever -- sometimes a little too clever, as the creative metaphors and similes pile up to the point of distraction. But that's just a tiny quibble with this imaginative, soaring tale.

 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the rooftoppers' means of survival: They trespass, steal, and fight with weapons. Also, Sophie and Charles intentionally break the law. Are they justified?
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  • Rooftoppers, like many kids' novels, features a child searching for her parent. Can you think of other stories of abandoned children you've read or seen in movies? 
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  • Could this tale, which begins in the 1890s, take place in the modern era? How would modern technology change the story?

Book details

Author:Katherine Rundell
Illustrator:Terry Fan
Genre:Adventure
Topics:Adventures, Great girl role models, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Simon & Schuster
Publication date:September 24, 2013
Number of pages:288
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 12
Read aloud:8 - 12
Read alone:8 - 12
Available on:Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
Award:ALA Best and Notable Books

This review of Rooftoppers was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 14 years old Written bykatiepotterdramabook April 25, 2014
AGE
8
QUALITY
 

sounds amazing

i would like to read this book because Sophie sounds like a girl who would travel the world for her family.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models

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