The Unadoptables

The Unadoptables
Written by Hana Tooke
Illustrated by Ayesha L. Rudio
Middle Grade, Historical, Friendship, Adventure
Published July 2nd 2020
400 Pages
Thank you to Penguin Books Australia
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★★★★
In all the years that Elinora Gassbeek has been matron of the Little Tulip Orphanage, not once have the Rules for Baby Abandonment been broken. Until the autumn of 1880, when five babies are left in outrageous circumstances: one in a tin toolbox, one in a coal bucket, one in a picnic hamper, one in a wheat sack, and finally, one in a coffin-shaped basket.

Those babies were Lotta, Egg, Fenna, Sem and Milou, and although Gassbeek might think they're unadoptable, they know their individuality is what makes them so special and so determined to stay together. Twelve years on the children still have each other, until a fateful night threatens to tear them apart. The gang decide to make a daring escape, beginning their adventure with only a scrap of a clue to guide them to their mysterious new home...
The Little Tulip Orphanage in Amsterdam is home to orphans Egbert, Lotta, Sem, Fenna, and Milou, children abandoned as infants under mysterious circumstances, the forgotten children shelved as unadoptable. With her journal of fantastical theories as to why she was found on the roof of the ophanage, in a coffin as a bassinet clutching a cat puppet, Milou knows it's only a matter of time before her parents, probably adventurous folk, return for her. They may have possibly dropped her basket on the roof while escaping a werewolf, as is probably customary for esteemed werewolf hunters. Nevertheless, she's certain they'll return before the horrible Matron's ultimatum, if the five children aren't adopted, they'll be left on the streets of Amsterdam to fend for themselves.

Matron Gassbeek is a horrendous woman, the children are impoverished and working until they're exhausted, a life of servitude and clasping onto what little possessions they have. It's no wonder when the ruthless and completely sinister Meneer Rotman arranges to purchase the children from Matron Gassbeek, the children gather their meagre possessions, the cat puppet and escape into the city.

What ensues is an adventure of resilience, mystery and a horrendously frightening villain who is determined to collect his purchases, the children. Meneer Rotman didn't count on the children being so inventive and resourceful, as they settle into their new life in an old abandoned windmill, once owned by Bram Poppenmaker, the maker of Milou's cat puppet.

The Unadoptables follows the narrative of Milou, resident storyteller, promising mystery solver and twelve year old miniature mother hen. Milou fiercely cares for her found brothers and sisters, often accepting responsibility for the wonderful childlike malarkey the children of Little Tulip Orphanage create, the Matron is a vile and malicious woman unfit to run a raffle, nevermind a children's orphanage. Milou has tried her damndest to be unadoptable, hanging onto the hope that her parents will return for her when safe to do so, clearly they're on an extremely dangerous adventure, hunting werewolves or hot air balloon aficionados and a catastrophe has befallen them and they'll return as soon as possible, how else would you explain an infant being left on the roof?

Milou's found siblings are absolutely delightful. Egbert is an artist, spending his days looking out over the city of Amsterdam, a budding cartographer with an impeccable eye for detail. Lotta is a tinkerer, a wildly imaginative inventor and handywoman. Sem is wonderfully creative, sewing, designing and repairing what little clothing the children own. Fenna loves to bake, she's gentle and compassionate and conveys her feelings by using body language and facial expressions, described as being mute. The children aren't officially related but they've chosen one another as their found family, despite the horrendous circumstances they find themselves in.

The Unadoptables is an endearing middle grade adventure, of perseverance, determination and resilience. Beautifully written and lovingly illustrated, an enchanting read for the young and young at heart.

17 comments

  1. I love when books have illustrations, and I really love MG novels. I'm trying to read more of them. This is on my wish list of books - the very long, long wish list (LOL) - so hopefully I can get to it sooner than later. I'm happy to see you enjoyed it.

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. It was such a lovely read Lauren, you'll enjoy this one.

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  2. This almost reminds me of A Series of Unfortunate Events. The found family members sound great and the artwork is amazing!

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    1. It is! It also reminded me a little of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. I loved stories about found families and these children are absolutely endearing. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that there may be a second installment.

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  3. This sounds like such a well-written book, and the kind I would be obsessed with when I was younger! I love that it's a historic adventure too, that always adds to the atmosphere. Lovely review!

    Anika | chaptersofmay.com

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    1. Thanks Anika. It's a beautiful read, absolutely enchanting!

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  4. Aw,I miss reading middle grade with my kids. The quality and variety of MG books just keeps getting better and better.

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    1. It absolutely does! Middle grade in general seems so much more aware now and diverse than young adult. This is a lovely read, I'd love to see what you think of it!

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  5. This sounds like such a charming and fun middle grade novel. I love stories that focus on found families. :)

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    1. Me too Tanya. There's something so incredibly charming about beautifully written middle grade stories, I think you'll really enjoy this one!

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  6. This sounds ultra adorable! I am a sucker for Middle Grade and Amsterdam holds a special place in my heart so it just feels like I have to read this. Also, the premise reminds me of the Willoughbys, which I loved, so if it's along the same vein then I'm sure to enjoy this as well!

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    1. I've never actually seen The Willoughbys but it sounds adorable! This was such a lovely read Tracey, I really hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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  7. That cover is so cute! Middle grade is hit or miss for me so I'm always on the hunt for one that's really great. This sounds like such a cute adventure story!

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    1. I tend to read mostly Australian middle grade contemporaries or adventure middle grade. It's so utterly charming and makes a lovely change from heavy fantasy novels. The Unadoptables is incredibly entertaining, really enjoyed it!

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  8. This sounds like such a cute read and I'm always up for a great story that features found families.

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    1. It's absolutely lovely Suzanne, such a delightful read!

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  9. This sounds like such a cute book, and the cover is sooo pretty! 😊

    🌿 Marissa Belle × marsybun.com 🌿

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