I am always a little skeptical when reading a book that has won a lot of prizes. It is not that they are not good books, but more that they are ‘good books’. So when an English teacher friend recommended The Rooftoppers I was prepared not to like it. In fact the book was a little slow to grip me, but I persevered, and am I am pleased I did.
Sophie is an orphan who is convinced her mother is still alive. Her guardian says that this is almost impossible, which is to say it might just be possible. When things at home changed Sophie and her guardian escape to Paris to search for her missing mother. What they find there is a mystery, no one wants them to find out what happened to Sophie’s mother. Sophie does not give up and is helped Matteo, a boy who lives on the roof tops of Paris. He introduces her to a strange new world above the streets and helps her in her search with surprising results.
What irritated me about the book when I first picked it up was the contrived oddness of the relationship between Sophie and her guardian, and the state who wanted to normalise the relationship. It was almost too much like a Dickens’ novel. However, as I read on I realised that the way Sophie was brought up allowed her to dream and see life through her own eyes, and that was one of the things I liked about the book. She was also brought up to be independent and to trust in herself, and to give things a try.
Although the story line was interesting, what remains with me about this book is just what children can do if they put their minds to it. All the children in this book are living in very challenging situations, and their imaginations, unique views of the world and their resolve allows them to prevail. It also helps that much of the book is set in one of my favorite cities.
All in all this is a ‘good book’, and because of that it will not appeal to all children, but it is certainly worthwhile giving them the opportunity to see if it does. Who knows, maybe they will enjoy joining Sophie and Matteo running on the rooftops of Paris, and it might encourage them to trust in themselves.