Running on the Roof of the World by Jess Butterworth is a beautiful book that kept me turning the pages without the overt use of cliffhangers and mystery. Not that it lacked these entirely. It was definitely full of action, adventure and uncertainty, it just didn’t require or position these in a manner to keep me enthralled. I was anyway.
It tells the story of 12 year old Tash and her friend Sam who live in Tibet, their lives governed by an oppressive regime and an army of soldiers who fulfil it. When Tash’s parents are seized in the night, she and Sam set off on a quest through harsh mountain terrain to deliver a message and seek help from the Dalai Lama in India.
Short, snappy chapters are punctuated with beautiful title pages, bedecked in swirls of mandala symbols. This really adds to the magical and spiritual nature of the book – it’s definitely one to be enjoyed in print, I’m so glad I picked it up from the library as I’m a bit Kindle-happy lately! I think the short chapters, and snappy pace in present tense also played a large part in keeping my interest.
I loved Tash and Sam. Full of both naivety and wisdom, they are at the pinnacle of adolescence, where their childish desires for adventure and fun meet real responsibility and danger. This is mirrored in their journey up and over the mountains.
I loved the political and spiritual undercurrents of this story, and the fact it was set in a culture other than my own. It really has scope to educate and inspire young minds, without trying too hard.
I came out of reading this with my usual glow that wanted to give it 5 stars. The only reason it’s losing a star is because it does tie up a little too easily, making it a very enjoyable read but one that borders on being contrived. However, that is my opinion as an adult and not one of the target audience of 9-12 year olds. Arguably this audience does also like to be challenged too, but there is so much about this book that does challenge and inspire that I’d hate to end on that note.
Ultimately, I loved it – full of love, courage, determination, friendship and hope, I highly recommend this book to young and old. I shall be buying a copy to keep on the bookshelf for my children as they grow.
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