cover image Rooftoppers


Katherine Rundell, illus by Terry Fan. Simon & Schuster, $16.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-4424-9058-1

A baby found floating in a cello case in the English Channel, and Charles Maxim, a scholar and fellow survivor of a mysterious shipwreck, become an unconventional family, guided by the philosophy that “You should never ignore a possible.” Permissive but caring, Charles lets the baby, whom he names Sophie, write on walls, eat off books, climb things, and indulge in “mother-watching” as the years pass, until unwanted attention from the National Childcare Agency sends them in search of Sophie’s cello-playing mother. In Paris, 12-year-old Sophie takes to the rooftops, guided by irrepressible roof-dweller Matteo, an orphanage escapee who literally shows her the ropes; in one breathtaking scene, he walks her on a tightrope between buildings (“Grip with your toes. Left. Stop. Do not look down”). Eccentric, tactile food imagery appears throughout, from Charles’s pork pie served on the Bible to Matteo’s fresh-cooked rat. While the children’s uncanny survival skills take occasionally graphic turns, as in a brutal fight between rooftopper tribes, the beauty of sky, music, and the belief in “extraordinary things” triumph in this whimsical and magical tale. Ages 8–12. Agent: Claire Wilson, Rogers, Coleridge & White. (Sept.)