Reviewed: Roof Toppers by Katherine Rundell
(Faber & Faber, R161 from Exclusive Books)
You don’t have to be a child to need the reminder that we should “never ignore a possible”. In fact, adults need this kind of encouragement most of all, which is why it’s both a pleasure and necessity to dip into a children’s book every so often – especially when the writing is as deft, imaginative and witty as Katherine Rundell’s.
A favourite on awards lists, Roof toppers comes garlanded with glowing reviews, including an endorsement from Philip Pullman, the prolific author of The Golden Compass and His Dark Materials– and that’s high praise indeed.
From the very first sentence you know you are in unusual and intriguing territory: “On the morning of its first birthday, a baby was found floating in a cello case in the middle of the English Channel.”
Sophie, the baby in question, is rescued by an eccentric intellectual, Charles Maxim, and raised on vast quantities of love and literature along with fish, chips and the odd nip of whiskey. She is encouraged write on walls, to climb trees and to seek the extraordinary everywhere, for, as Charles explains, she is “cut from the stuff of the moon”.
But the unwanted attentions of the National Childcare Agency and Sophie’s certainty that her mother has survived a shipwreck lead eventually to Paris – which is where she meets the Roof toppers of the title: feral children who live above the city, sleeping alongside chimney pots and vaunting from building to building.
Quirky, charming, optimistic and, most of all, a beautiful reminder to follow your dreams, Roof toppers will surely delight your inner child – and keep your outer adult happy too.