By Katherine Rundell
Published 2013 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
To the average person, Sophie is an orphan, the only female survivor of a shipwreck. But, in her heart, Sophie knows that her mother is still alive somewhere. When her guardian receives notice that the Welfare Society believes it would be improper for Sophie to continue in his care, the pair find themselves with only one option - flee to France and find the truth.
I picked up an ARC of this at a conference (and with my terrible memory can no longer remember which one). I grabbed it because the publisher rep was enthusiastic about it and it had the siren call of a middle-grade story.
I have some mixed feelings about this one. I loved the beginning. The first chapters that describe the life Sophie and Charles have created together were enchanting and well-written, casting a little spell on me as I read. Amazingly, though, the story began to lose a bit of its charm, at least for me, when the pair made their way to France. At that point, I found the story began to get a bit repetitive and not as lovely to read.
I find the title to be a bit misleading as well. We don't meet the Rooftoppers until Sophie and Charles make their way to France, which happens quite a way into the book. Even though Sophie spends a good deal of time with them, I don't feel like we get their whole story. Where have they come from? Why do they live on the roofs? What will happen to them? The title made me think we were going to get the whole story of the society of Rooftoppers and I'm just not sure that ever happened.
Additionally, I know I may seem a bit wishy-washy on this topic but I have some problems with the ending. Mainly, there are so many questions left unanswered. What is the deal with Sophie's mother? To me, it seems that only one question we began the book with is answered by the end and it just doesn't feel like enough for me.
I feel like this review sounds mostly negative, but I don't actually feel that negative about the book. I enjoyed it while I read and, as I said, the prose is quite nice. It felt very cozy and magical and I think will be a hit with young readers.
Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.