review: rooftoppers by katherine rundell


magical things can happen on rooftops – or at least should.

when i was still at an age and height where i couldn’t reach the cupboard’s highest and thus of course most mysterious shelf –even when stretching and standing on tiptoes (there may have been frustrated grunting involved), my family and i would fly over to my grandparents in india during our summer holidays.

we kids were bored out of our minds.

without further ado we’d decide that it was an amazingly ingenious idea to jump from rooftop to rooftop and explore other people’s properties where we would, among other things, pet stray cats, feed impatiently clucking chickens, see the birth of puppies, go –what can be best described as—‘people-watching’ and shoot spitballs at innocent civilians. on the downside, we managed to damage our neighbor’s already somewhat leaky rooftop and our parents were furious when they found out what we’ve done. of course we wouldn’t let that stop us,- instead we were just more careful about it.

something that rundell easily manages is capturing how as a child you somehow always strive to have your own adventure; that is if it doesn’t find its way to you beforehand. a small thing that may seem trivial to an adult could be invaluable to a child. rooftoppers keeps reminding the reader that beautiful things can happen particularly in childhood when you’re not yet set in your ways, keep an open mind accept people and things the way they are in their varying shapes and forms. children don’t give a damn about customs, manners and danger. stupid mistakes are bound to happen of course, but it’s kind of sad how we develop this aversion to taking risks based on the experience we have made, instead of showing more courage like we did when we were children.

if you have ever seen and enjoyed amélie [trailer], love me if you dare [trailer] or any wes anderson film, then you have a small taste of what you can expect from rooftoppers. if you haven’t … even better: dive into it with closed eyes and be prepared to have your inner child’s mind blown with this whimsical little tale. i wish i could give this to my 7 year old self that would cherish this and probably leave a bigger impression than on my by now adult version. it’s the stuff that childhood dreams are made of, encouraging children to believe, if only for a little while longer.


“she will come,” she said. “or i’ll go to her.”

“no, sophie. that is not how the world works.” miss eliot was sure that sophie was mistaken, but then miss eliot was also sure that cross-stitch was vital, and charles was impossible, which just showed that adults weren’t always right.

one day sophie found some red paint and wrote the name of the ship, the queen mary, and the date of the storm on the white wall of the house, just in case her mother passed by.

charles’s face, when he found her, was too complicated for her to look at. but he helped her reach the high parts and wash the brushes afterward.

“a case”, he said to miss Eliot, “of the just in cases.”

“but she’s-”

“she is only doing as i have told her.”

“you told her to vandalize your own house?”

“no. i have told her not to ignore life’s possibles.”



“is the girl worth it? worth committing a felony?”

“she is,” said charles evenly.

“she is bright enough to start a forest fire.”

“she seemed fairly ordinary,” said the clerk. crouched outside, sophie bristled.

“people usually do, until you know them,” said charles.

“sophie is uniquely endowed with intelligence, grit, and, at this particular moment, coffee stains. in fact, speaking of which-” a chair scraped, and sophie just had time to stumble backward two steps before the door opened.


book pairing:

 the kneebone boy


rating 3.0