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BOOK REVIEW: Running on the Roof of the World by Jess Butterworth

| 4 December 2017 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Running on the Roof of the World by Jess Butterworth

Orion Children’s Books
June 2017
Paperback, $15.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

Middle Grade / Adventure


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
Rule Number Four: Don’t Draw Attention to Yourself.

Join 12-year-old Tash and her best friend Sam in a story of adventure, survival and hope, set in the vivid Himalayan landscape of Tibet and India. Filled with friendship, love and courage, this young girl’s thrilling journey to save her parents is an ideal read for children aged 9-12.

There are two words that are banned in Tibet. Two words that can get you locked in prison without a second thought. I watch the soldiers tramping away and call the words after them. ‘Dalai Lama.’

Tash has to follow many rules to survive in Tibet, a country occupied by Chinese soldiers. But when a man sets himself on fire in protest and soldiers seize Tash’s parents, she and her best friend Sam must break the rules. They are determined to escape Tibet – and seek the help of the Dalai Lama himself in India.

And so, with a backpack of Tash’s father’s mysterious papers and two trusty yaks by their side, their extraordinary journey across the mountains begins.



From the very first chapter, readers are bound to feel a connection with Tash as she refuses to be cowed by the regime that is in control of the town where she lives.

She runs when the soldiers aren’t looking, and calls out forbidden words (Dalai Lama) when they’re just out of earshot.

As for me? There are two words that are banned in Tibet. Two words that can get you locked in prison without a second thought. I think these words often. Sometimes I even say them.
I watch the soldiers thumping away and call the words after them.
‘Dalai Lama.’

This is a country under occupation, and many people are pushing back. Some display their rebellion in ways that are harder to ignore.

For a split second I don’t think it’s real.
The man stands, gripping a Tibetan flag over his head. Flames lick the corners of the fabric and they curl as the red ink bleeds into the blue and yellow. He looks to the sky an shouts. My ears are ringing. The edges of my vision blur.
The man on fire steps forward and flames cling to his body. He runs past Dorjee’s camping shop, leaving a trail of thick smoke.

And when people come for her parents, searching for the resistance leaflets her father distributes, it’s up to two twelve-year-olds to make the long journey to India in search of the Dalai Lama to save themselves, and Tash’s parents.

Sam nods slowly. It’s too dark for me to read his face. ‘I’ve heard of people walking to India before,’ he says, ‘but it takes weeks, maybe months.’
‘That’s too long!’
I know the stories. People starve to death in prison. They mysteriously disappear. I can’t think about what might happen to Mum and Dad. The longer they’re there, the less chance there is of getting them out.

It’s hard not to be completely absorbed by these characters and the journey they’re on. Their hopes and dreams, their disappointments, their struggles. This is not the kind of situation any human would find it easy to live through, and yet these two show such determination and unwillingness to give up, that you’ll find this one hard to put down.

There is plenty to unpack here, as well, which would make this a good book to read with students or to open a discussion with your own children. Protest, and human rights, and courage, and friendship.

I’ll be eagerly keeping any eye out for any future books by Butterworth.

Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

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