March 7th 2013
Faber & Faber
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.
This book came to my attention because of the fact that it won the Waterstone's Children's Book Prize (and whole bunch of other stuff), and being a book blogger I felt like I should make some effort to actually keep up with these sorts of things. Though I may have also been swayed by the beautiful cover and great title. So I (finally) bought it a few weeks ago, and I really enjoyed it. I don't read a lot of books for younger readers, but this is one of those ones that doesn't talk down to their audience and is just a lovely, magical story. Even if it doesn't have any actual literal magic in it.
I thought that it was quite slow at the beginning, and it took me quite a while to get properly into it, but even though I didn't find it gripping at the start I did still love the way it was written. For about the first 100 pages the book is about Sophie growing up with Charles, her guardian, who is brilliant. I found that the book didn't really grip me until Sophie and Matteo met and they properly started on the search for Sophie's mother, and from that point I think I read it in one sitting. Which surprised me, because it didn't really seem to me like it would be a very gripping book. You know how it is with books that are so wonderfully written that you just want to take time to savour it rather than rush through it. However the book balances pace really well with the writing style, so it ended up being a pretty quick read.
I really loved Sophie and Matteo and their friendship. That was definitely one of the main draws for me when reading it, as well as the actual mystery of finding out who and where Sophie's mother is. They go on this whole adventure (well it really starts with her and Charles, whom I also loved and I feel a bit like he should have got more of a look in in the second half of the book, but that's a minor quibble) really based off the feeling that Sophie has the her mother is still alive. When the authorities threaten to take Sophie away from Charles, they flee to Paris, where they think her mother is, and that's really where it all kicked off. Sophie is kind of boisterous and wild and loves being near the sky, and her climbing on to the rooftops of Paris one night is what leads her to meeting Matteo. Matteo is initially unfriendly, but over the course of the rest of the book they strike up a really lovely friendship.
The ending was also so lovely. Honestly, I think this is the loveliest book I've read all year alongside Flora & Ulysses. It was the perfect conclusion to the book, even if it did feel quite abrupt. It leaves the story quite open ended, but in the right kind of way rather than the frustrating kind of way. I think I cried, but I am quite a weepy person so that doesn't really count for much. But this is genuinely one of the most beautifully written books that I've read for a while, with the loveliest story that I really won't be forgetting any time soon. I don't read a lot of MG, so I don't really have that many points of comparison, but Rooftoppers completely deserves all the success it has had.
Rooftoppers is a brilliant book about friendship and family and music and rooftops and never ignoring a possible, and I would recommend it to adults and children alike.