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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
54
Rooftoppers
Format: Hardcover|Change
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VINE VOICEon December 6, 2013
I have come to the conclusion that with few exceptions the best authors are now writing for "children." No idea why or how it happened but aside from my beloved Mystery genre I am overwhelmed with what is being written for the "youth market." I wonder if they deserve such riches as this extraordinarily fine effort by Rundell?

Not for the world would I describe any of the narrative plot much less the details of the characters, THAT is for you to savor, and do yourself that small delight, savor every page. The author has such a unique turn of phrase, with unexpected associations that are meant to be both charming and disarming, that you find yourself being lured into a dream state so beautiful that to over-think it would be to spoil it.

So I will not. The manner of writing, its seductive and often wry way with words reminded me at times of a singular novel, Le Grand Meaulnes by Henry Alain-Fournier who disappeared (literally) in the carnage of Verdun in WW1 has the same delicacy and wistfulness (and which manages to translate even into English! BUT if possible, read it in French, or a variety of translations for cross-reference). Rundell has the same poetic nobility, yet as her audience is the "8 to 12" bracket there is also a sweetness and lightheartedness that Fournier I suspect never experienced in his own life and so only shows up in his female muse in that novel.

We are so much the more fortunate, Charles and Sophie are as genuinely endearing as Scout and her father Atticus, possibly the only other father-daughter duo that can match Rundell's pair.

Should you need further evidence to persuade you I offer Rundell herself:

"... (the baby) was wrapped for warmth in the musical score of a Beethoven symphony ... he noticed that it was a girl, with hair the color of lightning, and the smile of a shy person..." (p.2)

" ... he spoke English to people and French to cats and Latin to the birds..." (p.4)

"... I like my icing to be extravagant" (says the toddler Sophie, p. 9)

"... the more words in a house the better, Miss Eliot" (Charles to the busybody government child welfare agent, pg. 19)

" ... the cello sing, Charles! ... It feels like home. Do you see what I mean? Like fresh air!" (Sophie discovering the cello, p. 25)

" ... only weak thinkers do not love the sky" (Charles to his rooftop enthusiast, Sophie, p. 26)

and on and on it goes, and just when you think Rundell can't possibly make it any more achingly beautiful or touching or winsome she does:

"... it was bread rolls, four of them, soft in the middle and dusted with flour at the top. They were still warm from the oven, and they smelled of blue skies ... I always used to think," said Sophie, "that if love had a smell it would smell like hot bread ..." (Sophie in Paris... p. 185)

Some things are better left unexplained. And so, just how Rundell came up with baby Sophie and her quirky Charles and the quest for her missing mother, well, that is for another reviewer, I will just say grab this awesome book and curl up in a warm blanket on a dreary rainy day and let yourself run loose on the rooftops of Paris with a very special friend in Sophie.

In time you might even let your kids or students read it. Share the magic.
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VINE VOICEon September 30, 2013
This story takes place near the end of the 19th Century shifting from England to Paris.

The story begins with the sinking of an English ship named the Queen Mary and the rescue by one survivor of another. A 36yo English bachelor named Charles Maxim rescues a cute little baby girl with platinum blond hair he describes as the color of lightning. He becomes her legal guardian and names her Sophie Maxim. Although they are not rich in finances, they are rich in the love they have for each other as they are all that each of them has. Sophie is a precocious child and is home schooled by Charles when he thinks to give her any lessons. She loves him and wants to do everything he does, so to keep her from drinking any of his whiskey, he pours it into a plain bottle and labels it Cat's Urine. The inquisitive. little Sophie smells it and then smells the backside of their cat and proclaims they didn't smell much alike to her. ;-) Things work out pretty well for the duo until Sophie turns 12, at which time, the Welfare agency says she will be sent away to an orphanage until she is 18, since Charles is not a blood relative and they didn't think it was proper for a single man to be in charge of a young woman of impressionable age. Both Sophie and Charles agree this is about the dumbest thing they have ever heard, so high-tail it to Paris to try and find her mother if she is even still alive. They pick Paris since that is where the Queen Mary sailed from before it sunk.

The first part of the book is devoted to Sophie and Charles loving relationship as she grows up from a 1yo to the age of 12. The second part then takes place in Paris as she and Charles try to find her mother. In their quest, while staying at a flea-bag hotel to try and avoid detection from the authorities who are looking for both of them, Sophie meets a young teen orphan named Matteo, who escaped an orphanage some years ago and lives on the rooftops of Parisian buildings along with some other orphaned teens, which is where the books title comes from.

Sophie, Matteo, and the other teen ROOFTOPPERS have numerous scary episodes [including a big fight with a rival teen gang that lives in the train station] while clambering along the roofs, using them as a vantage point to search for Sophie's mother. They think her mother's name is Vivienne Vert which translates to Green in English, but no FEMALE passengers or crew members survived from the sinking Queen Mary, but Sophie won't give up. Meanwhile the authorities are closing in trying to put Sophie in an orphanage and Charles in jail for evading the law.

There is enough angst to keep the average teen turning pages to find out what happens to Sophie and Matteo. Part of the plot involves a possible corrupt scheme by the Parisian Police Commissioner to conspire to sink ships and collect the insurance money on them. But a major plot point is the playing of Flaume's Requiem at double time speed on the cello. I don't wish to go further to spoil the final denouement for the reader. Let me say that the story is highly improbable, but has just enough believability in it to keep the average reader turning the pages till the end. A nice book for tweens and teens.
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on October 19, 2013
I saw Rooftoppers at the store last week and was instantly intrigued by the premise. With my wife being a music teacher, a silhouette of a cellist on a rooftop didn't hurt anything, either. Regardless, I had to think about it, but ended up buying it a few days later, thinking it would be a great book for my nine-year-old daughter.
I'm sure it will be -- I loved it.
The protagonist, Sophie, was rescued from a sinking ship by an English scholar named Charles Maxim. He loved and cared for her, but not the way a woman "should" be raised in the 1890's in London. The state is threatening to take Sophie away, but suddenly Sophie and Charles are making their way to Paris for a search for Sophie's presumed-dead mother. That's when the story really gets interesting as Sophie meets Matteo, an orphan who lives on the rooftops of Parisian homes and businesses. Sophie, now 13, joins in and discovers new wonders in the European city.
The story is told in a wonderful style, much like the Lemony Snicket books, just without the sense of doom and gloom that hung over each word. Instead, there was a sense of joy and wonder, even when Sophie was nearly taken away from the only parent she'd ever known.
I thought the author did a wonderful job of not chasing after storylines that would have been very logical, but would have taken away from the innocence and childlike text. Insurance fraud, murder and police cover-ups are all mentioned, but only briefly as the story quickly moves on like a child would expect.
Terrific book and I'll be passing it on to my daughter next!
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on October 18, 2016
Rooftoppers is an enchanting children’s book (grades 4-6) so delightful that adults who gravitate to beautiful language and a little whimsy will enjoy it too. A ship sinks and a remarkable baby girl with hair the color of lightening is found in a floating cello case and rescued by a fellow survivor. The rescuer’s name is Charles Maxim, and he is one of the most delightful characters you are apt to meet anywhere. He adopts and names the baby Sophie, and together they embark on a wonderful adventure (from England to the rooftops of Paris) in search of the mother Sophie knows in her heart is alive and waiting for her. The prose is lyrical and fresh, rich with descriptions and metaphors that had me smiling. My grandsons loved it as much as I did. Highly recommended!
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on February 14, 2016
This was a wonderful story about a child found floating in a cello case after The Queen Mary has sunk. Charles an older man who also survived the wreckage rescues the child and decides to keep her. He names her Sophie, when the child welfare asks Charles how he can possible care for this child he tells the simply that all Sophie needs is to be loved.

Once the officials decide Sophie would be better placed elsewhere he decides to take her to Paris to search for her Mother which Sophie believes is still alive.

The story is full of love and some wonderful characters. The true adventure begins once they leave for Paris. The big message from the book is "Never miss a Possible".

I read the book to support a team of four 4th graders competing in OBOB (Oregon Battle of The Books) many of the students who are participating selected this book as their favorite this year. I completely agree it was a fun book that left me feeling good.
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on May 21, 2017
I believe this was a star reviewed book by publishers weekly which is why I decided to read it. I didn't know it was for the younger set. I enjoyed it. The ending was too abrupt for my tastes but all in all a very different kind of of story than most. Glad I read it.
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on March 3, 2016
This is a wonderful story, great for upper elementary or middle schoolers. The reading level, or Lexile, is late second grade, but the story is interesting to any age. It's one of those bridge books that may help a student who is having a hard time transitioning into chapter books. And yes, the sale went smoothly!
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on September 28, 2017
My older daughter said it was her favorite book and she’s an avid reader so I purchased this copy for my younger daughter who is a reluctant reader. We haven’t started reading it together yet.
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on January 29, 2017
I thoroughly enjoy reading aloud amazing books to my 3 children. I enjoy recommending soul enriching or empowering or healing stories & swapping books with friends...this is definitely one of those I will include!!
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on March 30, 2016
You should really read it. It is worth the money I am 10 and a half and this is now my favorite book ever please read or find it in a library near you Crane elementary school has it in their library I think so it is 280 pages please make the time to read it you won't regret it please find it today thanks for reading. Have fun this is rooftops love it
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