“Never ignore a possible,” exhorts Charles, the guardian of 12-year-old Sophie. It’s a piece of advice she will often return to as she embarks on the search for the mother she is convinced is still alive.
As a baby, Sophie was rescued from a sinking ship in the English Channel (she was found floating in a cello case) and taken in by the eccentric Charles, whose unorthodox views on parenting stoke the ire of the prim social worker Miss Eliot. The National Childcare Agency finally tires of Charles, deciding Sophie must be put in a children’s home – governments, it seems, do not approve of irregular home schooling or little girls wearing red trousers. Before the swoop, though, Sophie and Charles abscond – to Paris, where she embarks on a search for her mother. There’ll she meet the mysterious Matteo, also no fan of government-sponsored care, who only lives on rooftops. Using the flimsiest evidence (let’s not ignore a possible, after all) they begin the hunt for Sophie’s mum.
Rooftoppers is Katherine Rundell’s second children’s novel, and it has all the makings of a classic. The book is elegantly written: whimsical, charming, and intelligent, and sometimes very funny. From rainy London to starlit Paris, the freshly descriptive prose conjures up a sublime world of adventure. Rooftoppers celebrates resourcefulness, gumption and faith that adults would do well to embrace. It is a reminder that sometimes in having hope, we can reap remarkable rewards.
Rooftoppers is published by Faber and Faber, R119, and is one of AERODROME’s WinterReads.