Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell

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My reading has been fitful over the past few days. I have a pile of books to review for our summer reading list and over the past 72 hours, I’ve started and stopped three or four different well-reviewed novels. They are good books, but I didn’t feel compelled to keep reading any of them.  I began to think the trouble was a distracted reader. But yesterday I started Katherine Rundell’s Rooftoppers, and I’m almost done. I’m keeping this extraordinary novel close so that even if I can’t read for a bit, it remains in my field of vision.

Rooftoppers is a sweet and sparkling concoction of Roald Dahl’s Matilda and Polly Horvath’s Everything on a Waffle and even several Dickens tales.

Set in the 19th century, the novel opens with an “off camera” shipwreck, after which a man named Charles Maxim rescues a baby from a floating cello case. Charles names her Sophie – and becomes her guardian. The two live happily in a magical music and story-filled paradise of sorts until the day the National Childcare Agency decides that Charles should not be raising a young girl on his own.  “Legally, you are the property of the state,” Charles tells a heartbroken and angry Sophie.  The two of them decide to escape to Paris and search for Sophie’s mother who, Sophie believes, survived the long ago shipwreck. In Paris, Sophie meets Matteo who lives his whole life on the rooftops – he literally never visits life on street level. From her new vantage point above the streets, Sophie meets other children who live quite unorthodox lives. One of the joys of Rundell’s novel are these gem-like passages that I would like to wrap into a beautiful box and peek into every so often to enjoy their beauty. You will discover your favorites, but here’s one of mine – a conversation between Miss Eliot from the child service organization and Charles:

She hated their joint habit of writing each other notes on the wallpaper in the hall.

“It’s not normal,” she said, scribbling on her notepad. “It’s not healthy!”

“On the contrary,” said Charles. “The more words in a house the better, Miss Eliot.”

On a completely different note, last night I was walking around Barnes and Noble and a few things caught my attention. Standing in front of a new fiction display, it occurred to me that many of this spring’s “big books” are blue. Look at this:







I also noticed new covers of Judy Blume’s books —


Then, browsing the YA shelves, this row of books jumped out.  It’s interesting that Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret has two covers – one for the YA reader and the other with the set of Blume’s novels for younger readers.  (note: Margaret has the white cover in the photo above.)

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This is kind of funny….I had a group of students in the library the other day, and several of them were reading books from the uber-popular Who Was series of short biographies. I got all of them out and started passing them around – just for something fun to do!  Here they are:


Back to Rooftoppers and then maybe one of the blue books!



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