What’s it all about?:
Everyone thinks that Sophie is an orphan. True, there were no other recorded female survivors from the shipwreck which left baby Sophie floating in the English Channel in a cello case, but Sophie remembers seeing her mother wave for help. Her guardian tells her it is almost impossible that her mother is still alive, but that means still possible. You should never ignore a possible. So when the Welfare Agency writes to her guardian threatening to send Sophie to an orphanage, she takes matters into her own hands and flees to Paris to look for her mother, starting with the only clue she has – the address of the cello maker. Evading the French authorities, she meets Matteo and his network of rooftoppers – urchins who live in the sky. Together they scour the city for Sophie’s mother before she is caught and sent back to London, and most importantly before she loses hope.
What did I think?:
This fantastic children’s novel won the Waterstones Children’s Books prize for 2014 and after reading it myself as part of Chrissi Cupboard Month for December last year I heartily concur that it was a most deserving winner. It is Katherine Rundell’s second novel after her debut Girl Savage and was heavily influenced by her own night-time walks and adventures on the roof tops of Oxfords colleges whilst at university. The story opens beautifully, almost like a fairy-tale where a baby is found after a shipwreck floating in a cello case and wrapped in some manuscript. A gloriously eccentric but wonderfully kind man called Charles rescues her and brings her up as if she was his own child and she grows up as a fiercely independent and much loved little girl who knows her own mind from a very early age.
Unfortunately for Sophie and Charles the big wigs from Social Services don’t quite see it the same way. Sophie is often dresssed very oddly which perturbs them slightly but not as much as when the social worker, Miss Eliot pays a visit and discovers that they write each other notes on the wallpaper. Not “normal,” or “healthy” in her books although I tend to agree with Charles when he informs Miss Eliot that:
“On the contrary,” said Charles. “The more words in a house the better, Miss Eliot.”
Well said Charles! Miss Eliot however, has more to find fault with than just that and it is decided that Sophie must be taken away from a man that loves her dearly and whom she loves in return. Sophie has already been asking questions about her mother and she is determined that she is still alive and living in Paris, going by the label on the cello case where she was found as a baby. This gives Charles a marvellous opportunity to take Sophie and flee to Paris, where they hope to search for her mother. What Sophie is not expecting is to find a new life high up on the roof tops above the hustle and bustle of the capital with a courageous young boy called Matteo and his gang of orphaned children who may also be able to assist in finding her mother.
This is such a gem of a story that I think will appeal to adults as well as children and would be fantastic read aloud. I fell in love with Charles instantly and really enjoyed all his eccentric little ways, how he takes care of Sophie whist allowing her to be her own person and how he supports her without quarrel when she wants to find someone she has only dreamed about and who may be her only living blood relative. Katherine Rundell creates a magical world on the roof tops of Paris that will appeal to anyone with a sense of adventure and draws a strong character in her heroine Sophie that children will adore. I just know this book will become an instant classic that will continue to be enjoyed for years to come. Personally, I just can’t wait to see what the author does next, I’m certain it’s going to be great.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):