Rooftoppers

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Rooftoppers Book Poster Image
Soaring, quirky adventure has unforgettable characters.

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

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 & Representations
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."

What 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.
 

 

User Reviews

Uncle Written byHarry J. March 18, 2018

Great book that makes the reader want to take more risks.

Young girl and her scholarly adopted adult go to Paris to track down her long lost mother. She escapes onto rooftops, jumps across perilous gaps, stays up toil... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bykatiepotterdramabook April 25, 2014

sounds amazing

i would like to read this book because Sophie sounds like a girl who would travel the world for her family.

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?

ROOFTOPPERS is a captivating read packed with tiny delights. There's 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 -- and that's just for starters. 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.

 

Talk to your kids 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?

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