Running on the Roof of the World by Jess Butterworth
|Running on the Roof of the World by Jess Butterworth|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: A wonderful middle grade story of survival and hope set in the Himalayan landscape in Tibet and India. And also a careful but honest description of the Chinese occupation and the issues surrounding it.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 288||Date: June 2017|
|External links: Author's website|
Rule Number One: Don't run in front of a soldier.
Rule Number Two: Never look at a soldier.
Rule Number Three: Say as little as possible.
There are two words banned in Tibet: Dalai Lama.
Tash lives in a Tibet under the Chinese occupation that began in 1950. Chinese soldiers are a constant and oppressive feature of her life. Most of Tibet's cultural and religious traditions are severely suppressed and any act of rebellion can result in you taken away by the soldiers, never to be seen again. But there is resistance. Tash's father belongs to a secret cell that tries to get information out to the wider world. But it's dangerous. And when, one day, a man self-immolates in her village as an act of protest, the Chinese authorities crack down hard.
With her parents taken away by the soldiers, Tash and her friend Sam must try to make the dangerous journey over the Himalayas and escape to India, where they can ask the Dalai Lama for help...
Running on the Roof of the World is one of those stories that gives its young readers an honest understanding of some of the awful things that go on in the world, but balance that understanding with a narrative of survival and hope so that the reading of it isn't a depressing or distressing experience. This is an important thing. It's how we build empathy in our young people and it's how they will, one day, be able to make the world a better place. You might think it utopian of me to say that, but I don't think it is. The stories that resonate with us when we are young shape us in important ways and carry us through life.
It's easy to read and very accessible, told in very short chapters just a few pages long. So a keen reader of eight and above could approach it with confidence. But it's also full of strong imagery, is evocative of landscape, and explores quite complex emotions. So a more mature child in their early teens wouldn't find it too babyish. And this older-than-she'd-like-to-admit reviewer had a wonderful afternoon reading it, too.
Tash is a relatable central character - well-meaning but impulsive at times, and with enough courage to overcome her many fears. Sam backs her up admirably, even though he has the burdens of secrets. And if you don't fall in love with the sturdy two yaks, Eve and Bones, then there really is something wrong with you.
I would hate to finish this review without mentioning the beautiful production values of the physical book. Look at the cover! Isn't it spectacular? And each new chapter has a beautiful, intricate design traced across a single or double page spread. The temptation to colour in at least one of them is almost overwhelming. Running on the Roof of the World is lovely on every level, it really is.
Other fabulous middle grade books that deal with serious issues affecting children in other countries include Oranges in No Man's Land by Elizabeth Laird, about Lebanon, and The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon, about Rohinga refugees in Australia.
You can read more book reviews or buy Running on the Roof of the World by Jess Butterworth at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Running on the Roof of the World by Jess Butterworth at Amazon.com.
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