Carnegie Nominee: ‘Rooftoppers’ by Katherine Rundell

Having already won and been shortlisted for various awards, I was expecting ‘Rooftoppers’ to be gripping and heartening, and I wasn’t disappointed. 

The story of orphan Sophie and her nearly-adopted father figure Charles Maxim was incredibly heartwarming. A man who would encourage his child’s possibles to the ends of the world (or Paris, in literal terms), and a girl without prejudice or corruption leading a search for her heart’s desire, both wrapped up in a tale of adventure and exploration. Compared to the other Carnegie nominess this is (thankfully and wonderfully) light-hearted, aiming to lift spirits to the rooftops and show that anything is possible with a little dreaming and a lot of hard work (and, of course, fabulous fun along the way). Yes, the plot is stretched and implausible, but isn’t this the point of the book? To stop us from believing in the logical and learn to imagine beyond our expectations? As Charles says at one points, adults can be terribly afflicted with a need to only believe in what is in front of them, and that is a tragic hinderance in our ability to reach our desires. 

 

I think my favourite aspect of this tale is Charles, the adult that I’m fairly sure could never exist but everyone should want him to. He indulges Sophie in the best possible way, not raising a brat as one would expect, but a child who sees beyond the limitations of senseless arbitrary rules and instead views the world with an intense amount of compassion and love. He ranks amongst the top fathers within literature who offer emotional strength and wisdom without preaching or condescension. 

 

The only thing I found a little grating in this (and it was marginally so) was the scene with the railway children. In one sense I understood it perhaps showed passion and unity in the face of oppression, in a more intense way than Sophie’s opposition to the repressed knowledge of the police, and it fleshed out Matteo’s troubled and fascinating character by adding depth to the notion of him being a survivor, but it also seemed slightly senseless in its violence. This is me being very picky though in the sense of fairness to the other Carnegie reviews, and it really didn’t detract from the book at all, it is perhaps just a personal reaction to a change in the positive adventurous nature of the book. The scene was concise, Rundell crafted it only to serve the aforementioned purposes and therefore did not draw it out, which is to her credit. 

 

And the ending…well, I won’t spoil it for you, but it serves as a reminder of the beauty of art, life and love in a world that can sometimes be troubled and difficult, reminding us that to pursue a possibility is always a good thing regardless of the outcome. 

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