Author -Katherine Rundell
Winner- Blue Peter Book Award
Waterstones children’s book prize
Shortlisted- Cilip Carnegie Medal
Guardian Children’s fiction
UKLA children’s book award
Randall weaves a magical modern-day fairy tale and embellishes it with sparkles of adventure, spirit, and the thrill of chasing your dreams. The story envelops you into its warm folds and seeps into your heart.
A fellow passenger, Charles, rescues a one-year-old baby swaddled in a musical score of Beethoven’s symphony floating in a cello case in the middle of the English Channel. Charle’s unorthodox and dreamy upbringing lends wings to Sophie’s imagination and roots to her natural self.
While Charles and Sophie eating their cake off the cover of ‘A Midsummer’s Night Dream’ may suggest a nightmare to a booklover. But for the duo, it spells living without rules and restraints. Not to mention their ardent fondness for Shakespeare. It escapes their notice that the walls get chipped, the paint is peeling, or there is nothing but spiderwebs lining the larder. Even Sophie’s eccentric dressing sense and stubborn streak are considered sensible till it becomes a bone of contention between Charles and the National Childcare Agency.
The trouble in Paradise impels them to take on the lam.
The father and daughter land in Paris—the city of Sophie’s fantasies, only because she believes her mother is alive and waiting for her there. Armed with nothing but a cello case and snatches of memories, Sophie forges ahead on an impossible and arduous journey to find her mother.
An action-packed, fast-paced adventure ensues. Sophie’s wardrobe climbing skills come in handy when she hobnobs with a feral and wild community of youngsters living on rooftops. Some have never descended to street levels, and others detest ‘too much human’ in their lives. Surviving rising gales, thriving on roasted rats and pigeons for refreshments, and ignoring bleeding toenails come naturally to Sophie. She builds a complex and passionate bond with the roof toppers and the tree dwellers, especially the risk-taker, Matteo.
The spectacular covert operation, simmering with death-defying stunts of the rooftop crew as they chase the cello notes floating into Parisian skies, form the rest of the story. Hiding somewhere within the seams of a devil-may-care attitude, the weirdness, and quirks, Sophie finds courage, endurance, and kinship, gaining a rare resilience.
The most riveting portions of the book are Sophie and Matteo’s escapades on the Paris rooftops with the skylight as an exit door. Randall’s vivid descriptions breathe life into those capers. The drama and thrill interlacing with childhood innocence render the scenes immensely charming.
You can almost feel the wind scraping against your face as you wobble on a tightrope connecting the two skyscrapers alongside Sophie. It doesn’t get any better, as your mentor encourages you to feed pigeons perched on your palms. And the only way you could maintain calm is by following a tip-to-keep-whistling.
An exhilarating feat, indeed.
Rundell’s metaphors are poetic, quirky, and highly inventive. Some are super witty. Take, for example-
Sophie had hair the color of lightning and the smile of a shy person.
Charles held the baby at arm’s length, as he would a leaky flowerpot.
Think of nighttime with a speaking voice. Or how moonlight might talk, or think of ink with vocal cords. This is how Charles spoke.
To be impolite felt, to Sophie, like wearing dirty underwear.
She was cut from the stuff of moon.
The strange squad of roof toppers with calloused toes and broken feet feasting on pigeon-fat and using candles for communication wouldn’t fail to delight you. Mix it up with pages smeared with Charle’s extraordinary kindness, amusing banter between the father and daughter, and Sophie’s unwavering conviction, and you’ve got yourself a delectable concoction.
Rundell composes an exceptional musical symphony with notes of passion, fearlessness, and faith, keeping pace.
Pick it up for your middle grader or if you believe you are young at heart. And just like Sophie, you may learn to – never ignore a possible!