Friday, 13 June 2014

‘Rooftoppers’ by Katherine Rundell - Carnegie review

Baby Sophie is rescued from a sinking ship and, grows up believing that her mother died in the shipwreck.

But when he slightest of clues means there is a chance of tracking down her mother, Sophie, and scholarly Charles, who has brought her up in London, head to Paris in search of the truth, and the start of an out-and-out adventure story.

Sophie and Charles are used to staying one step ahead of the authorities, as the eccentric way Charles has looked after Sophie means she is only a step away from being taken to an orphanage.

But in Paris Sophie finds helps in her impossible quest from an unexpected quarter – from a bunch of children she meets who scrape a living on the Paris rooftops. Now on the run from police, Sophie sees a way she can still search for her mother. But first she must learn to scale ancient buildings in the dark, must learn to tightrope and to win the trust of the Rooftoppers.

It’s a magical tale, of children getting together to help each other and has a feel of a fairytale about it. But the thing that surprises on every page is the imaginative writing. Katherine’s way of telling the story, her fantastically imaginative word play, means there is plenty to enjoy and delight.

It’s in a great tradition of storytelling. It has huge appeal and, from the children I’ve talked to about their Carnegie experiences this year, it is the book people have most been pleased to have discovered through the shadowing.

It’s a great story about being yourself, not fitting in and a theme of believing the impossible. Great to have such an enjoyable, uplifting and well-written story for younger readers on the list.

We asked author Katherine Rundell what was her favourite thing about her shortlisted book.

"My favourite thing about Rooftoppers is the night-time tightroping scene, when Sophie walks across a rope high above Paris. I've always loved tightroping and wire-walking, but imagining what it might actually be like gave me unexpected jabs of dizziness. It took seven or eight rewrites to get that scene as close to right as I could make it, but it's now one of my favourite things I've written."

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