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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.

278 pages, Paperback

First published March 7, 2013

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About the author

Katherine Rundell

33 books973 followers
Katherine Rundell was born in 1987 and grew up in Africa and Europe. In 2008 she was elected a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. Her first book, The Girl Savage, was born of her love of Zimbabwe and her own childhood there; her second, Rooftoppers, was inspired by summers working in Paris and by night-time trespassing on the rooftops of All Souls. She is currently working on her doctorate alongside an adult novel.

Source: Katherine Rundell

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,009 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,993 reviews298k followers
November 17, 2015
4 1/2 stars. This is pretty close to five stars and I might change my mind yet. Just a beautiful, lyrical and magical book, even though there is no literal magic or fantasy elements.

karen pretty much nailed it when she said this was "classic-feeling". This whimsical historical tale has something timeless and wonderful about it - like all the best children's classics. The characters are so well-drawn and memorable, and the writing sparkles with a certain bittersweetness.

It's about a spunky, intelligent girl called Sophie, who was found floating in a cello case in the English channel as a baby. The man who found her - Charles - decides immediately to do the only natural thing - raise and love this baby girl as if she was his own.

People will easily fall in love with Charles. He is not a conventional parent and the child services certainly don't value his habit of letting a little girl wear trousers (god forbid!). He is quirky, weird and more concerned with raising a happy child, than one who fits into society's expectations. Also this:
“I do, I’m afraid, understand books far more readily than I understand people. Books are so easy to get along with.”

There's something about his attitude and the way he speaks that gives me a Dumbledore vibe.

The setting moves between the rooftops of London and Paris as our charming pair of criminals run from the authorities who wish to take Sophie away. Behind this, though, is the search for Sophie's mother and all they have to lead the way is the cello and it's music.

There is so much love for life, language and adventure in this book. It has you wishing you were the kind of person who could go racing around rooftops at midnight, seeing the whole of a beautiful European city laid out before you.

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Profile Image for karen.
3,988 reviews170k followers
July 9, 2018
just a wonderful, magical, extraordinary book. the kind of classic-feeling book you can put in the hands of a little girl and feel confident that with it, she will grow into a wonderful, magical, extraordinary creature herself. it might work on boys, too, who knows? but right now i am speaking to the fathers i know with young daughters who are looking for that book that will leave an impression on them in a literary role-model kind of way: a strong and smart and brave little girl raised by an eccentric man who may not have taught her much about how to be conventional, but who has shared a love of language and adventure, and has raised her to be fierce and loyal and courageous and independent.

and on top of the glowing character(s), the language of the book is pure milky chocolate - just lovely and unexpected prose that really stands out when compared to any other book ever. this is a book i would have read until it fell apart if it had been around for me when i was, say, eight or so. this is a book you read when you are little and then take to college with you and then hand down to your own daughters. it is for sickbed reading, reading aloud, savoring and treasuring and pulling down from the shelves as needed. this book is begging to be inscribed and given as a gift.

there is nothing i don't like about this book. and there is no way i can do it justice. an extended quote is the best i have for you.

sophie is our young heroine, charles the man who took her in as a baby when she was found in the water after the capsizing of a boat, and miss eliot the social worker who disapproves of the whole situation. here:

Miss Eliot did not approve of Charles, nor of Sophie. She disliked Charles's carelessness with money, and his lateness at dinner.

She disliked Sophie's watching, listening face. "It's not natural, in a little girl!" She hated their joint habit of writing each other notes on the wallpaper in the hall.

"It's not normal!" she said, scribbling on her notepad. "It's not healthy!"

"On the contrary," said Charles. "The more words in a house the better, Miss Eliot."

Miss Eliot also disliked Charles's hands, which were inky, and his hat, which was coming adrift round the brim. She disapproved of Sophie's clothes.

Charles was not good at shopping. He spent a day standing, bewildered, in the middle of Bond Street, and came back with a parcel of boys' shirts. Miss Eliot was livid.

"You cannot let her wear that," she said. "People will think she is deranged."

Sophie looked down at herself. She fingered the material. It felt quite normal to her; still a little stiff from the shop, but otherwise fine. "How can you tell it's not a girl's shirt?" she asked.

"Boys' shirts button left over right. Blouses - please note, the word is blouses - button right over left. I am shocked that you don't know that."

Charles put down the newspaper behind which he had retreated. "You are shocked that she doesn't know about buttons? Buttons are rarely key players in international affairs."

"I beg your pardon?"

"I meant, she knows the things which are important. Not all of them, of course; she is still a child. But many."

Miss Eliot sniffed. "You'll forgive me; I may be old-fashioned, but I think buttons do matter."

"Sophie," said Charles, "knows all the capitals of all the countries of the world."

Sophie, standing in the doorway, whispered, "Almost."

"She knows how to read, and how to draw. She knows the difference between a tortoise and a turtle. She knows one tree from another, and how to climb them. Only this morning she was telling me what is the collective noun for toads."

"A knot," said Sophie. "It's a knot of toads."

again - there is nothing i do not love about this book.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Arah-Lynda.
337 reviews533 followers
August 12, 2016
Take a look at that cover. It is the stuff of dreams and so is this story.

It was Charles that found Sophie.

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

The baby was found wrapped for warmth in the musical score of a Beethoven symphony. It had drifted almost a mile from the ship, and was the last to be rescued. The man who lifted it into the rescue boat was a fellow passenger, and a scholar. It is a scholar’s job to notice things. He noticed that it was a girl, with hair the color of lightning, and the smile of a shy person.
Think of nighttime with a speaking voice. Or think how moonlight might talk, or think of ink, if ink had vocal chords. Give those things a narrow, aristocratic face with hooked eyebrows, and long arms and legs, and that is what the baby saw as she was lifted out of her cello case and up into safety. His name was Charles Maxim, and he determined, as he held her in his large hands - at arms length, as he would a leaky flowerpot - that he would keep her.

Miss Eliot (from The National Childcare Agency) is also concerned about the baby’s (whom Charles has named Sophie) care.

Miss Eliot did not approve of Charles, nor of Sophie. She disliked Charles’s carelessness with money, and his lateness at dinner.

She disliked Sophie’s watching, listening face. “It’s not natural, in a little girl!” She hated their joint habit of writing each other notes on the wallpaper in the hall.

“It’s not normal!” She said, scribbling on her notepad. “It’s not healthy!”
“On the contrary” said Charles. “The more words in a house the better, Miss Eliot.”

Among the many lessons Charles has given Sophie, he has taught her not to ignore life’s possibilities.

Sophie did remember her mother, in fact clear and sharp. She did not remember a father, but she remembered a swirl of hair, and two thin cloth-covered legs kicking to the beat of wonderful music, and that wouldn’t have been possible if the legs had been covered in skirt.

When they began to play the music was different. It was sweeter and wilder. Sophie sat up properly and shifted forward until only half an inch of her bottom was on the seat. It was so beautiful that it was difficult for her to breathe. If music can shine, Sophie thought, this music shone. It was like all the voices in all the choirs in the city rolled into a single melody. Her chest felt oddly swollen.

This is such a beautiful story told in a very distinct voice. There are times when you just know you are reading a classic and this is one such time.

This would be a beautiful gift for a mother to give to her young daughter, but it goes deeper and is so much more than that, unwritten, unspoken, unbroken bond. It is about the power of love, in all its many forms, all of them fierce and loyal.

Embrace possibility and let Sophie’s music take you to the rooftops of Paris. It is about hope and belief, about following your inner voice, listening to your senses and letting the music play on, play on, play on. All wrapped up in luscious, chocolaty prose.

Here is a story that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike. It is the stuff of dreams and it is delightful.

Five Forever Stars!
Profile Image for Annet.
570 reviews735 followers
October 19, 2019
Charming young adult book about an orphan girl, Sophie, who looks for her mother of whom she is convinced she is alive... in Paris, travelling over rooftops together with Charles her guardian and sort of 'stepfather' and a band of rooftop children... 3.4 maybe more. Will return for more!

A beautiful story about pursuing your dreams and never ignoring a 'possible'.
Everyone tells Sophie that she was orphaned in a shipwreck. But Sophie is convinced her mother also survived. When no one believes her, Sophie sets out to prove them wrong. On the run from the authorities, Sophie finds Matteo, a boy who walks tightropes and lives in the sky on the roofs of the city of Paris. In a race across the rooftops, will they be able to find her mother....?
Profile Image for Hilary .
2,264 reviews404 followers
January 30, 2022
This story started so well, a 5 star read for the first quarter of the book, after that it really went down hill. A baby is washed up from a shipwreck in cello case and a free thinking batchelor called Charles takes her in and calls her Sophie. We loved the description of their life together and their united stand against the authorities who were trying to take Sophie away. We loved the descriptions of their read alouds, trips to concerts and home education.

When they travel to France to explore the possibility that some of Sophie's relatives may be in Paris, Charles disappears from the storyline and is replaced by the rooftoppers, homeless orphans living on the rooftops to avoid detection. Sophie sets out to find her mother.

At this point the story and the characters became too farfetched. For some reason the story endlessly refers to spitting, so many times it became ridiculous, for all sorts of reasons, on yourself and friends, the story was also constantly referring other bodily fluids, snot, blood, I think this was in attempt to make it a gritty read but it felt forced and needless. As with the other book I have read by this author, peeing and going to the toilet was constantly mentioned, I have no idea why, it's quite a natural thing to do but added nothing to the storyline.

As with the majority of books I have read that have a musical element it is clear the author isn't familiar with what she is writing about but hasn't checked her facts. It's mentioned a couple of times that Sophie's mother smells of resin when it it's rosin you use on a bow, also it barely smells unless your nose is touching it.

There are some odd parts where Sophie lies about where she is going at night to her guardian and he tells her some confusing stuff about it being okay to lie. It seemed odd and unnecessary that her caring guardian would let (I am guessing Sophie is an 8 or 9 yr old) out in the capital at night, all night.

The story ends

The start of the story was wonderful but the rest was a 2 star read, it's a long book and the end part became a chore.
Profile Image for Hannah.
289 reviews53 followers
November 27, 2013
Rooftoppers started out brilliantly; the first chapters were full of whimsy and a sense of randomness that I completely fell in love with. The beginning of the story, which chronicles how our heroine, Sophie, is found as a baby floating in the ocean in a cello case and adopted by the kind-hearted scholar, Charles, was a pure delight.
However, once the book became plot driven, with Sophie and Charles going on a journey to find her mother, it lost its magic for me.
Also, Rooftoppers ended extremely abruptly. As I neared the final pages, I kept flipping ahead in confusion, thinking, "the story can't end this soon, can it?" But yes, Rooftoppers seemed to accelerate to a rollicking conclusion, and then come to an abrupt halt.
Perhaps the pacing of the story was a conscious attempt by the author to mimic the theme of racing music. Cello music played double time is actually an important plot point in Rooftoppers. However, even if, interpreted in the most flattering light, the plot pacing was meant to replicate the musical theme, as a reader, I still found it to be unsatisfying.
In the end, I felt that the beginning of Rooftoppers reminded me of the important things in life, the idea that love is much more important than acting "proper" or "normal." But the rest of the book was not much more than a middle-grade, plot-driven, journey story.
Despite this, Katherine Rundell is clearly a talented author with a unique voice. I hope that she shares her vision in future novels, and perhaps considers using her sense of whimsy in tales for older readers.
Profile Image for Algernon (Darth Anyan).
1,529 reviews979 followers
October 30, 2016

Short and sweet - an urban fairytale targeted at children that should be reviewed in the spirit it was written and not by grown-up standards.
The opening chapters remind me strongly of "The Storied Life of A J Fikry", but later developments turn original and distinctive, proof that Katherine Rundell is not simply writing fanfic about a bookish bachelor who tries to raise a young girl on his own, opposed by social services and keen on passing on his love for the written word.

I do, I'm afraid, understand books far more readily than I understand people. Books are so easy to get along with.

Charles Maxim is an unconventional scholar who tends to walk into lamp posts while reading. He is also a typical Londoner who never gets out of the apartment without an umbrella. When he saves a one year-old child from a sinking cruise ship, Charles decides he wants to keep her and gives her the name Sophie.

Sophie, whose only possession is the cello box she was found drifting in, lives for 12 happy years in Charles' household, homeschooled in the most unconventional ways, allowed to ask any question she likes, read whatever she takes a fancy to and climb any tree or rooftop in sight. Their iddylic existence is put in danger when social services decide this is no way to raise a proper lady.

"It's not normal! she said, scribbling on her notepad. It's not healthy!"
"On the contrary", said Charles. "The more words in a house, the better, Miss Elliott."

Maxim and Sophie, threatened with immediate eviction to an orphanage, decide to run out of the country and head to Paris, chasing a wild dream of finding the girl's mother from a clue hidden in the cello box. Mother-hunting becomes the main interest for Sophie. Without impunding in any way her love for Charles, the girl is in need of "A place to put down her heart. A resting stop to recover her breath. A set of stars and maps." The Parisian authorities prove to be even more inflexible and corrupt than the London ones, and Sophie only finds help and understanding in a band of outlaws and orphans like herself - a group of lost children living like savages among the rooftops of the city. Thus is the rooftoppers club born, an a charming novel written.

A flock of starlings was called a murmuration

The prose may seem at times a little condescending toward kids and preachy, but I must point out again that its intended audience is 10 years old kids, and not fifty-somethings. Adjectives like 'bouncy' , 'twirling', 'skipping'. 'dancing' and 'singing' are a good indicator for a happy story, yet the author is skillful enough to introduce in the text powerful critical comments about the way we treat orphans and the way we stifle imagination in young children. There were a few missteps that pulled me out of the story several times, but they all can be dismissed as grown-up foibles, so I decided to put them in spoilers, and not to detract from the overall positive impression this short story left.

Recommended for children, limited appeal to grown-ups.
Profile Image for Jo.
268 reviews945 followers
March 19, 2013
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.

You can read this review and lots of other exciting things on my blog, Wear the Old Coat.
Profile Image for Roger Brunyate.
946 reviews651 followers
August 3, 2018

      "They told me that she was dead, and I didn’t believe them. Why did she believe it? Why didn’t she keep looking?"
      "My darling, because she is an adult."
      Sophie ducked behind her hair. Her face was hot and tight and angry. "That’s not a reason."
      "It is, my love. Adults are taught not to believe anything unless it is boring or ugly."
      "That’s stupid of them," she said.
      "Sad, child, but not stupid. It is difficult to believe extraordinary things. It’s a talent you have, Sophie. Don’t lose it."
It is difficult to believe extraordinary things when you're an adult. But children can, which is why Katherine Rundell's wonderfully fanciful book won both the Waterstone and Blue Peter prizes for children's literature when it came out in 2014. By the same token, it is difficult for an adult to review; we can celebrate the times we share a childlike delight, certainly, but how can we be sure that when it gets a little repetitious to us, it is not in fact drawing the child reader even deeper into its spell?

Anyway, first things first. The book begins with a shipwreck. Of the Queen Mary no less—clearly fiction, but also putting us adults in mind of the Titanic and an earlier 20th-century time period. A one-year-old baby is found floating in a cello case, and one of the other passengers rescues her:
      The baby was found wrapped for warmth in the musical score of a Beethoven symphony. It had drifted almost a mile from the ship, and was the last to be rescued. The man who lifted it into the rescue boat was a fellow passenger, and a scholar. It is a scholar’s job to notice things. He noticed that it was a girl, with hair the color of lightning, and the smile of a shy person.
      Think of nighttime with a speaking voice. Or think how moonlight might talk, or think of ink, if ink had vocal cords. Give those things a narrow aristocratic face with hooked eyebrows, and long arms and legs, and that is what the baby saw as she was lifted out of her cello case and up into safety. His name was Charles Maxim, and he determined, as he held her in his large hands—at arm’s length, as he would a leaky flowerpot—that he would keep her.
As the lady from the National Childcare Agency will often point out, Charles has little idea of how to bring up a female infant. But he is both imaginative and kind. Soon Sophie (for that's what he calls her) is enjoying the kind of upbringing any child would dream about, with lots of exciting things to explore and no silly rules about dressing like a little lady or not writing on the walls. Charles's idea of a perfect birthday treat is eating a tub of ice-cream on top of a coach-and-four galloping around Hyde Park in the rain. And he reads to her from Shakespeare and takes her to concerts, at one of which she hears a cello and falls in love. So he buys her one:
      The cello they bought was small but still too large to play comfortably in her bedroom. Charles unstuck the skylight in the attic, and on the days on which it did not rain, Sophie climbed onto the roof and played her cello, up amongst the leaf mold and the pigeons.
      When the music went right, it drained all the itch and fret from the world and left it glowing. When she did stretch and blink and lay her bow down hours later, Sophie would feel tougher, and braver. It was, she thought, like having eaten a meal of cream and moonlight. When practice went badly, it was just a chore, like brushing her teeth. Sophie had worked out that the good and bad days divided half and half. It was worth it.
Sophie's comfort with rooftops will come in handy later. For when she is twelve, the National Childcare Agency tell Charles that she must go to a Home to be Properly Looked After. Finding a label concealed inside the cello case that shows it was made in Paris, they realize that Sophie's mother might have been French, so they escape across the Channel to look for traces of her. All they can afford is a cheap hotel, where Sophie has an attic room with a skylight, and once again she climbs up to practice on the roof.

On their first day, Charles and Sophie find the cello shop and locate an assistant who remembers a beautiful woman who preferred to play solemn pieces very fast, so that people could dance to them. He demonstrates with a snatch of Fauré's Requiem,* a piece that Sophie also knows. While Charles pursues the trail by more normal means, Sophie finds her own way of continuing the search. One night, a boy of her age called Matteo appears at her skylight, telling her to keep off the rooftops, which are his personal domain. Of course she refuses, and of course they become friends, and he takes her on a perilous journey to the roof of the Palais de Justice, where he lives. From the roofs at night, he says, you can hear sounds from all over Paris, so Sophie begins to listen out for somebody playing the Fauré Requiem on a cello at double speed….

Katherine Rundell says she was inspired by a 1937 book, The Night Climbers of Cambridge. Rundell, a fellow of All Souls' College, Oxford, apparently enjoys clandestine climbing in the other place as well. She also lists tightrope walking as one of her hobbies. There is a chapter in the book where Sophie and Matteo balance for half an hour on a rope high over Paris, feeding the birds that alight on their outstretched arms. Magic for a child, maybe, but this is where my adult self kicked in; I could only handle it by dismissing it as ridiculous. Too much of the latter half of the book left me behind and seemed repetitious as a result; I was going for four stars. And yet, now I know the author practices what she preaches, I realize that this is only one more layer of the meticulous detail with which she anchors her fantasy to reality. And children will be far more willing to climb the rooftops with her than this almost-octogenarian who has trouble with balance even on city sidewalks.

After all, this is an author who says she begins each day with a cartwheel, for "reading is almost exactly the same as cartwheeling: it turns the world upside down and leaves you breathless".


*Fauré's Requiem is of course a choral piece with no obvious passage for solo cello. But Fauré did write a famous Elegy for cello and piano, later orchestrated. At first, I took this as the typical mistake of a non-musician wanting to include a reference to classical music. But Katherine Rundell is so particular with her detail, that I now think it is a deliberate transposition—like the reference to the Queen Mary, which didn't sink—to preserve an element of fantasy within the appearance of normality (or vice-versa).
Profile Image for Drew.
450 reviews501 followers
January 8, 2016
Oh my goodness, if you haven't read this book yet then you need to pick up a copy of it ASAP! Rooftoppers was pure charming, quirky, and clever historical fiction. If that doesn't draw you in then maybe the mention of a stubborn and brave narrator who goes by the name of Sophie will, or the pages of lovely illustrations at the start of each chapter.

It's true that this is a children's book, but I think readers of all ages will be able to enjoy it. The setting is in England and France and the descriptions of the cities are gorgeous—French pastry shops, parks, bridges, and streets.

Let me just talk about my love for the characters. Sophie and Charles were impossible not to grow fond of. When Sophie was a baby Charles found her floating on the English Channel in a cello case and took her in to raise her in his humble, book-filled apartment.

Sophie was the most charming, adorable, and spirited twelve-year-old and Charles was her eccentric and loving guardian who had an extremely odd but wonderful way of taking care of her. He filled her mind with the knowledge of words since she was young, let her wear pants, and encouraged her to play her cello on the rooftops.

“Sophie and Charles did not live neatly, but neatness, Sophie thought, was not necessary for happiness.”

The plot follows the two as they flee the authorities to France to search for Sophie's lost mother. Sophie discovers a secret world on the roofs of Paris where dirty, poor, clever "rooftopper" children run free from the watchful eyes on the streets.

This book was simply wonderful and dealt with themes of friendship, love, family, and music. I loved Rundell's smart but simple writing style that was unlike most books published nowadays. She had a way of stating truths so plainly and beautifully that I just adored.

In Rooftoppers there were no fire-breathing dragons or prophecies, but a girl aching to find her mother and the adventures she made along the way. I loved it from the very first page until the last.
Profile Image for Maja (The Nocturnal Library).
1,013 reviews1,920 followers
October 25, 2013
Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell has the quality and the warmth of a children’s classic. It is a gorgeous story about a little girl in search for her mother. There aren’t many stories like this, not anymore, and as a parent, I’m extremely grateful when I discover one to share with my daughter.

By far the best part of this book is Sophie’s relationship with her foster father, Charles. Charles always encouraged Sophie’s peculiarities and never tried to fit her into a mould. His only method of upbringing was to love Sophie as much as possible – everything else was to work itself out. Parents can learn a lot from Charles; oftentimes we try too hard and focus on all the wrong things, and in the process, we neglect what’s most important. Sophie ate from book covers because she tended to break plates; she never brushed her hair, allowing it to become a tangled mess; she wore trousers sewn by Charles when girls were expected to wear pretty dresses, and she was homeschooled, mostly on Shakespeare. But she was the happiest child, free to become the person she was meant to.

"I know these sorts of people. They are not men. They are mustaches with idiots attached."

Rundell’s writing is a thing of beauty, smooth and elegant, easy and utterly charming. She created a wonderful and magical story, full of love and unconventional beauty. It is almost impossible to describe why this book feels so much like a classic, but it does. Books like Rooftoppers are extremely rare and I’m eager to share it with the people I love.

"Sophie," said Charles, "knows all the capitals of all the countries of the world."
Sophie, standing in the doorway, whispered, "Almost."
"She knows how to read, and how to draw. She knows the difference between a tortoise and a turtle. She knows one tree from another, and how to climb them. Only this morning she was telling me what is the collective noun for toads."
"A knot," said Sophie. "It's a knot of toads."

Nicola Barber handled the narration extremely well. Her characterization is excellent and her voice laced with humor in a way that can keep the attention of smaller kids. Sophie’s naiveté and sweetness were evident in her speech and she even pulled off a decent French accent when it was needed. Judging from my daughter’s severe lack of patience, I can’t see younger kids sitting through 6 hours of audio at home, but if you’re planning a longer road trip with your children, I strongly recommend this book as an excellent way to make the time go faster. Both you and your children will gain a lot from it.

This is a book children and adults both can read and reread several times. I know I would have, as a child, and I probably will now. I can’t wait to share it with my daughter. Do yourselves a favor and give this wonderful book a chance.

Profile Image for Scarlet.
187 reviews1,169 followers
December 31, 2020
I'm so grateful this book exists! It transported me to the magical nighttime rooftops of Paris at a time when I'm actually cooped up indoors in the midst of a pandemic. Made my heart so happy.
Profile Image for Rachel.
241 reviews3 followers
August 21, 2018
Sophie couldn’t ask for a more loving guardian – or a better friend – than Charles Maxim, the scholar who took her in as a baby after a shipwreck. But she insists she has snatches of memories of her mother, and she longs to find her. When the child welfare hawks threaten to take Sophie away from Charles, the Maxim duo decide there is no better chance for them to run away to Paris and seek Sophie’s mother.

A venture onto the hotel rooftop opens Sophie’s world when she discovers a community of orphan children called Rooftoppers. They live in shadows and move at night, and some of them are highly dangerous. As she begins to spend more time on the rooftops, Sophie learns about bravery and love. Will the rooftoppers be the key to Sophie’s mother-hunt?

If you enjoy unique imagery – sticky buns that taste like blue skies, or welfare authorities having a suit where a heart should be – you’ll appreciate the way Katherine Rundell writes.

Fans of A Tale of Despereaux will find a similar feel to this story.

Grown-up portion of review:

This is one of those kids' books that gets more stars for kids than it did for me. But this is the first time I've given it two extras on the library site.

I think kids might appreciate the use of language, whereas I found some of it a bit kitschy. There were descriptions and even minor plot elements that chose quirky aesthetic sweetness over actual usefulness. A Chelsea bun that tastes like blue skies? It's a lovely sentence, but I'm no closer to knowing what that bun tastes like. And having a suit where a heart should be? It's been done - in fact, I'm pretty sure Meg Ryan says something very similar in You've Got Mail. But for young readers/writers just learning to wrangle words into a particular voice, this kind of language can be engaging and open up new possibilities.

Another thing that makes the book enchanting for kids but a little dull for adults is the slightly stock nature of the characters. The hateful and conservative child welfare hounds; the crusty-but-kind, street-wise orphan boy; the loving, nontraditional, scholar dad. They create a magical world, even though I've read or watched all of them before.

Finally, it's absolutely unbelievable. Yet another reason it bothered me but probably won't bother elementary readers.

It's written for kids, so maybe I shouldn't even mention these grown-up off-putters; but the best of children's literature engages readers of all ages, and I think Rundell has it in her to write something that does so.
Profile Image for Stacia (the 2010 club).
1,045 reviews3,982 followers
July 20, 2016
Rooftoppers was a fun read. If my ten year old self had read this, surely I would have rated the book 4 stars. My adult self wasn't as invested (since I wasn't the target audience; my opinion doesn't count against children!), even though I appreciated the charm of the story. Matteo reminded me slightly of a childlike Han Alister, or perhaps a far more innocent version of a scamp from Oliver Twist.

Caught between the upper end of childrens' and lower end of middle grade, I'm shelving the book as childrens, although readers of both age groups might find something to enjoy with Rooftoppers.

I might keep the book to gift to my younger son in a few years.

The little illustrations present at the beginning of each chapter were a nice addition to the story.

Profile Image for Maddie.
557 reviews1,150 followers
August 31, 2016
I really loved the setting: who knew there was so much you had to learn before calling the rooftops you're home? Although I thought it was a little trope-y, with the lost mother, the thwarted search and the outside-the-box approach to growing up, I still had a fun time jumping from buildings and diving in rivers with Sophie and Matteo!
Profile Image for Zanda.
188 reviews1 follower
January 6, 2021
Grāmatas nosaukums tiešām jau gandrīz visu arī pasaka :)
Tātad būs čells, Sofija un piedzīvojumu ceļojums Anglija - Parīze (Parīzes jumti un bērni no jumtu cilts).
Kas iepriecināja? - Neparasti labestīgi, gaiši un brīvību mīloši tēli, kuri vistiešākajā izpausmē dzīvo pēc saviem likumiem/nosacījumiem.
Kas manu prieku mazināja? - Aizraujoši iesāktā sižeta līnija kaut kur pa vidu atslāba un arī beigas likās tādas sasteigti aprautas.
Bet kopumā skaists lirisks stāsts bērniem/jauniešiem.
Profile Image for Evie ~Running away to Europe~.
241 reviews120 followers
July 18, 2022

"There are thousands and thousands of things we have not believed that turned out to be true. [...] One should not ingore the smallest glimmer of possiblity."

A very cute, middle grade read. It kinda reminded me of "The Thief Lord" by Cornelia Fluke since both books have a very similar feel. I'd say I liked "The Thief Lord" a little more, but I enjoyed both.

My main complaint is that the ending was rather abrupt and didn't exactly fit the flow of the story. Also at one point Charles tells Sophie that keeping secrets from him is okay (idk exactly what he means by that) which isn't exactly something you'd want your kid doing so..... Other than that, I loved the whimsical feeling to the story and the children who live on rooftops (especially Matteo who was so cute 🥰)

"Without knowledge, you only see half the world."


"Everyone thinks that Sophie is an orphan. True, there were no other recorded female survivors from the shipwreck that 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 “almost impossible” means “still possible.” And 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 hidden spaces above the city. Together they scour the city in a search for Sophie’s mother—but can they find her before Sophie is caught and sent back to London? Or, more importantly, before she loses hope?"

Charles loves Sophie and takes care of her to the best of his ability. He also has a magical, optimistic way of looking at life which he shares with her. The rooftoppers watch each other's backs.

Mentions for church and sin.

The police want to take Sophie away from Charles (by force if necessary). One fist fight. Blackmailing. Children are punched, kicked, and injured (not descriptive). Threats.

None. Possible crush between a girl and a boy.

"D--n" said several times throughout the novel.

Charles drinks whiskey and offers some to Sophie (she takes a sip but doesn't like it). Sophie mentions previously trying alcohol.

Sophie doesn't tell Charles she's going on the roofs even though he told her to stay in her room. Recommended ages 10+ for violence, alcohol, and language.

Side note, but I love stories with characters from London, it's like having a piece of home 💕.


~Happy Reading~
Profile Image for Elīna Jurberga.
290 reviews35 followers
December 30, 2020
brīnumaina grāmata.

un tie parīzes jumti - tik īsti, ka šķiet, skatījos parīzes debesīs, sastapos ar strazdu un baložu pulkiem un no klēpja notrausu kruasāna drupačas līdz ar sofiju. katrs vārds savā vietā, katra doma turpat un bezgala liels saviļņojums, cik šis viss skaisti. arī pieaugušajiem. bet varbūt, ka patiesībā tieši pieaugušajiem visvairāk.
Profile Image for Hallie.
954 reviews123 followers
January 3, 2017

Jen gave me this lovely book for Christmas, and it was the perfect way to start off the reading year. You're likely to hear the 'timeless children's book' descriptor a lot, and with good reason. It's timeless in the sense that it's a non-specified date in the past (early 1900s? Later 1800s?) when women were not cellists and were not supposed to wear trousers, but when it also feels perfectly right for a delightful man like Charles to rescue a baby, take her home and raise her, without bothering either of them with stupid things like school. It's also timeless in that same way because it could be a Noel Streatfield if he got in a Nanny to help out.

Mostly, though, it made me think of A Little Princess, with a very different sense of social justice: no romanticizing of the diamond mines into something out of The Arabian Nights; no meek and grateful poor children, and no patient suffering. Sophie is a wonderful character, the rooftoppers she meets are heartbreaking and yet so strong, and I fell head over heels with Charles. It's whimsical and funny, too, which I don't think of A Little Princess as being, and yet ... that rooftop feast, for hungry Matteo (and Sophie, though hers was a voluntary hunger!), had the same emotional payoff as the one from the earlier book.

My only concern was that a bit of me wanted the ending tied up with a series of weatherproof (and not from pigeon fat) bows.
Profile Image for Skip.
3,351 reviews413 followers
July 6, 2014
You just have to love Katherine Rundell: "She begins each day with a cartwheel and believes that reading is almost exactly the same as cartwheeling: it turns the world upside down and leaves you breathless." One year old Sophie is found floating in a cello case, and is adopted by bachelor, Charles Maxim, after they survive a shipwreck. He raises her unconventionally, always encouraging her to consider the possibles. When Sophie turns 12, Social Services decides it is inappropriate for her to live with Charles, and they flee together to Paris to search for Sophie's mother, who Sophie believes is alive. In Paris, Sophie is befriended by Matteo and others, who live on the rooftops, away from the prying eyes of society. Their adventures are fun and magical. Also liked that Rundell used the names of animal groups liberally, such as a murder of crows, a murmuration of starlings, a knot of toads, etc.
Profile Image for Nusrat Mahmood.
561 reviews648 followers
December 23, 2016
কি চমৎকার একটা বই বছর শেষ করবার জন্য! বছরের শেষের দিকে এসে সবসময় ভাল বই পড়াটা খুব জরুরী মনে হয় আমার কাছে। এই সময়টায় খুব ভয়ে ভয়ে থাকি তাই কোন বই পড়বার ক্ষেত্রে। এর মাকে নিয়ে লেখা কোন বই কি খারাপ হতে পারে নাকি? আমারও যে এখন ছাদে উঠে মাকে খুঁজতে ইচ্ছে করছে।

সেই যে সোফি জাহাজডুবিতে বেঁচে গিয়ে একটা সেলোর কেসে করে ভাসতে ভাসতে পৌঁছল চার্লসের কাছে। এই চার্লস কিন্তু ভীষণ চমৎকার একজন মানুস। আমি যদি হারিয়ে যাই, খুব করে চাইবো জেন চার্লসের মতো কেউ আমাকে খুঁজে পাক। কি যে আদরে সে বড় করতে লাগলো সোফিকে। কিন্তু ঐ যে এতিমখানার লোকগুলো এসে সোফিকে নিয়ে যেতে চাইলো সরকারের আদেশে তখন চার্লস লুকিয়ে সোফিকে নিয়ে গেল প্যারিসে। তারপর এক বিশাল কাহিনী। সোফি পেল ছাদের উপরে থেকে কিছু বনহুকে, সবাই মিলে খুঁজে বের করার চেষ্টা করতে থাক্লো সোফির মার। কিন্তু সোফির মা কি বেঁচে আছে?

সাধারণ এক্তা গল্প কে কি অসাধারণ ভাবেই না ক্যাথেরিন লিখেছেন। মন ভরে যায়! ...... আম্মুর কাছে যাবো! বই পড়ে মনে হচ্ছে আম্মুকে না দেখলে মরে যাবো আমি দুই একদিনের মধ্যে!
Profile Image for Cheryl.
9,813 reviews418 followers
September 1, 2020
Some imperfections in the details, but it has an interesting adventure, delightful characters, some very lovely writing, and besides, it's so very original & creative that it gets the bonus star. Read an edition with a dark cover, like the one I did... the current GR default is *wrong* because rooftoppers do *not* want to be seen and so are mostly nocturnal. And do read it; it's short and gives one hope that there will continue to be *new* stories in the world.
Profile Image for Chelsea.
1,144 reviews593 followers
August 25, 2016
3 ½ stars, a delightful middle grade story. Rooftoppers is a quick read that is easy to fly through, with likable characters and a mystery at heart, though I wasn’t quite invested in the story.

This is also a bit of historical fiction that takes place in England and Paris, which makes it stand out from other middle grade books.

A man named Charles finds a baby floating in a cello case in the river after a shipwreck. He names the baby Sophie and decides to raise her as his own. As Sophie grows older, child services become concerned with the idea of a single man raising a young girl, fearing he won’t be able to teach her to be a proper lady as he allows her to wear pants and get dirty. Even though Charles loves Sophie, child services resolve to take Sophie away.

The two decide to run away to Paris in search of Sophie’s mother, who she insists is still alive. While there, Sophie meets a peculiar boy who lives on the rooftops who may just lead her to find her mother.

It’s a mystery that drives the story, but the characters of the determined Sophie and bookish Charles are easy to love, which really makes the story as good as it is. The idea of “rooftoppers”, the people who live on roofs, jumping from rooftop to rooftop, is interesting, and it’s fun to follow Sophie as she becomes tangled up with the rooftoppers.

The writing still was good, nothing groundbreaking, but suited the story well. My one complaint would have to be that I doubt this story is going to stick with me, because even though it stands out from other books, the story itself didn’t grip me or really leave me thinking.

If you’re looking for some middle grade with an interesting setting and time period, go for it! I wouldn’t put this at the top of the list as far as books I recommend, but I definitely think it’s worth reading.
Profile Image for steph.
226 reviews
January 2, 2016
In three words: charming, poetic, beautiful.

"Almost impossible means still possible."

This was my first book of 2016, and it was an utterly enchanting read. Charming, witty and heart-warming, this is the story of a baby who survives a shipwreck and, found floating in a cello case, is taken in by a kind gentleman named Charles. While she loves him, the girl, Sophie, still believes that her mother is alive. Some years later, after discovering inside the cello case a clue that points to Paris, the pair travel there and Sophie begins to search for her long-lost mother, meeting 'rooftoppers' - children who live above the streets of Paris - along the way.

Sophie is a delightful character - plucky, full of love, and determined. In fact, all of Rundell's characters are beautifully drawn, from the kind-hearted Charles to the wild and wonderful rooftopper children. Rundell's writing is gorgeous - it flows beautifully and the dialogue sounds completely natural. Overall, this was a lovely, fairy tale-like story and one that I fell in love with from the first page.

Shoutout to my friend Marion for getting this for me as a Christmas present! :)

Recommended for: everyone! Adults shouldn't miss out on this simply because it's a children's book. If you like beautifully written tales of adventure and not giving up, I highly recommend this book!
Profile Image for Jen.
247 reviews151 followers
November 23, 2014
Mother Daughter Book Club Review:

Mother: Great story with spoonfuls of creamy dream-like prose. Loved most young Sophie and her adventures with the rag-tag friends who dwell on rooftops and trees, especially Matteo and the almost more-than-friendship introduced by Rundell...reminiscent of Secret Garden with maybe a dash of Heathcliff in hardscrabble Matteo, the lone wolf kid all haunted, passionate, and grim. (Jump, Sophie, jump. You might die, but maybe you won't. And here, here are my scars from the knife and no, I don't talk about it, like ever, but it messed me up. And yes, give me your ankles to hold and I'll dangle you over the edges of reason and rooftops.)

Loved Charles her guardian. Did not love the ending. Really, that's it? What happened, mom? You've got some 'splaining to do.

Daughter: It was boring in the beginning until they got to Paris. Then it was good. Charles was pretty nice and understanding. I liked the boy she met and when they were diving into the icy water. I liked the ending and the food. The tightrope at night was cool.
Profile Image for Mafi.
1,114 reviews204 followers
February 28, 2017
Existem livros que por vezes têm páginas a mais e com conteúdo que não acrescenta nada ao livro. "Rooftoppers" sofre disso mas no inverso. Na minha opinião eram necessárias mais umas 50 páginas mas no entanto não me senti desiludida com o final corrido e pouco desenvolvido, devido à simplicidade e beleza da escrita da autora, que nos prende logo nas primeiras páginas e por fim à mensagem que o livro transmite: que a esperança é realmente a última a morrer.
Ainda referente às personagens, Matteo é outra personagem peculiar e que consegue ter o seu destaque no livro, o que poderia ser difícil visto que grande parte do mesmo é centrado apenas em Charles e Sophie, e uma introdução tardia poderia não ser tão eficaz. mas a autora conseguiu balançar a ausência de Charles com a presença de Matteo.

opinião - http://algodaodoceparaocerebro.blogsp...
Profile Image for Arah-Leah.
75 reviews17 followers
August 6, 2016
This is what reading is all about! Dare to dream. This is all the magic, and wonder, hope and inspiration abound. I bought this book for my daughter's birthday and it is without doubt, perfection in choice. It is a story about a baby found in a cello case floating in The English Channel. A Girl, found on her first birthday. It is a story about her search for her long lost mother. A search that will take her to the rooftops of Paris. Adventure awaits. A perfect gift to pass from Mother to Daughter. It's inspiring, it's magical, it's everything I remember feeling in a book when I was a child. It is the foundation for imagination. Hmmm, I like that. I am so glad that I still read fairy tales and books for all ages because this was simply beautiful! It is an instant favorite, and a book to share and treasure for all time.
Profile Image for Tessa.
1,895 reviews68 followers
May 14, 2016
The first third of this book was five-star stuff. I loved Sophie and I really loved Charles (he was the best character by far) and Rundell's writing is charming. But the books sort of faded as it went on: there was not nearly enough Charles (though I liked the new characters too), and it got a little too plot-centric. And then there was the ending. What ending? Did you see an ending? Because I must have blinked and missed it. The book just ends--it doesn't really tie up anything. The climax rushes along and the book goes faster and faster and then, whoops, it's over.

I really loved the beginning of this book, and I enjoyed the rest (apart from the non-ending). I'm looking forward to reading Rundell's other books.
Profile Image for Il Cibo della Mente - Pamela.
130 reviews40 followers
December 14, 2015
Ieri sono stata sveglia fino alle due di notte per finire questa meraviglia ❤ Una favola assolutamente perfetta in questo periodo, una storia che parla di amore, amicizia, coraggio, speranza e legami indissolubili... Un romanzo che venera le mamme sopra ogni cosa. Perché
Le mamme sono una cosa di cui hai bisogno, come l'aria, pensò. E come l'acqua. Le mamme sono un posto dove far riposare il cuore, un rifugio dove fermarsi a prendere fiato

A breve la recensione sul blog :)
Profile Image for ~♥~ Sil.
371 reviews6 followers
August 16, 2017

Con una pluma delicada y cuidada, la autora nos cuenta una historia llena de esperanza y aventura. Conoce a Sophie, una chica peculiar, con mucha imaginación y libertad que no se rendirá hasta encontrar a su madre.
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