Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell
Faber and Faber, 2013. ISBN 9780571280599.
(Age: 11+) Highly recommended. Mystery. Family. France. When Sophie is plucked from the ocean, a baby adrift in a cello case after the sinking of the ship, she is convinced that she heard her mother whistling. Her adoptive parent, Charles Maxim, lives an unconventional life, much to the chagrin of Miss Elliot from the National Childcare Agency who makes a weekly visit. But brought up on a diet of Shakespeare and roof sitting, the young girl resents the machinations of the government department in trying to separate her from Charles. And so indeed does the affable Charles. Finding an address in the cello case, she and Charles head to Paris where Sophie is convinced she will find her mother, and escape the attention of Miss Elliot.
The gentle humour, lightness of touch in the writing and the characters of Sophie and Charles will beguile the reader into accepting the extraordinary things which happen: being found in a cello case in the ocean, her unconventional upbringing, Charles' house, her decision to go to Paris to seek her mother, and the meeting with Mareo who seems to live in the sky as he leads Sophie to meet the other homeless children living on the Paris rooftops to escape the authorities. All through Sophie's confidence in finding her mother is unquestioned and the wonderful Charles allows her to lead the quest, with the words 'never ignore life's possibles'.
With all the magic and whimsy of a fable, and with the makings of a modern classic, the delicious writing flows along, carrying the reader with it to the end.