A most un-ordinary adventure: Read a review of The Unadoptables by Hana Tooke

A most un-ordinary adventure: Read a review of The Unadoptables by Hana Tooke

Five young babies are abandoned to an orphanage in Amsterdam and are at the mercy of the despicably mean Matron Gassbeek, who shows no kindness or warmth to her charges, forces them to slave at menial jobs not fit for children and punishes them severely.  Twelve years after their abandonment the five of them are still in the orphanage, having been judged as unadoptable by many prospective parents over the years.

They each have a few meagre possessions which may or may not hold clues to their background and the whereabouts of their families. Milou, the storyteller of the group, has fantastic theories about her own parents, and desperately wants to believe they will return for her one day. She sabotages any chances of adoption, as she wants to be at the orphanage when her parents return for her. Milou’s determination and imaginative plans drive the plot forward and her grief and joy are keenly felt by the reader.

The other four children also have special traits and skills which become invaluable when they go “on the run” after the accidental death of Matron Gassbeek. Fenna can charm any animal and her kindness shines through, even though she is a child of very few words. Lotta is the scientist of the group, with extra fingers on each hand that help the group through some sticky adventures. Sem is a clear-thinking leader whose talent with needle and thread serve the children well. Egg is a talented artist and his knowledge of maps and the country become invaluable in their various quests.

Gassbeek was about to release them into the care of a sinister villain, but they avoid his plans for a life of slavery and take flight through the frozen streets and canals of Amsterdam. Initially the children flee the city following the clues Milou has gathered about her own parentage, ending up at a mysterious mill. They encounter some strange characters who provide further information, and so the story starts to unfold, and the pace of the story quickens.

This is a gothic tale in a gothic setting. Fans of A Series of Unfortunate Events will love the story and the characters. There are nightmarish scenes that will truly stretch imaginations, in the style of Roald Dahl’s villainous adults. The wintry streets and creepy old buildings create a forbidding atmosphere. However along with the bleak landscape, grief and sorrow, there is also joy and hope. Ultimately these characters believe in a brighter future. The stakes are high, and they take great risks, but they do not lose sight of their friendship, loyalty, trust and compassion for each other’s circumstances.

The author, Hana Tooke, grew up in Amsterdam and has lived in England since she was twelve years old (interestingly, the same age as our unadoptable runaways). There will definitely be a sequel, with the potential for a longer series. This book is suitable for readers 8+.




Un-ordinary adventure: Read an extract from The Unadoptables by Hana Tooke

Review | Extract

22 July 2020

Un-ordinary adventure: Read an extract from The Unadoptables by Hana Tooke


The amazing humour and world-building of Nevermoor meets the wisdom and warmth of Rooftoppers in this most un-ordinary adventure about five amazing children . . .'Milou,' Lotta said softly. 'We need adoption papers to leave. And no one except that horrid merchant wants us.' 'Well then,' replied Milou with a grin. 'We'll just have to adopt ourselves.'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 1886, 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; who were swiftly and firmly deemed 'the unadoptables'. Twelve years on the children still have each other - until the fateful night a most sinister gentleman appears and threatens to tear them apart. The gang decide to make a daring escape, fleeing the frozen canals of Amsterdam for an adventure packed with puppets and pirate ships, clock-makers and cruel villains - and with only a scrap of a clue to guide them to their mysterious new home . . .
Hana Tooke
About the author

Hana Tooke

Half Dutch, half English, Hana Tooke grew up near Amsterdam and moved to the south of England at the age of twelve. After completing a degree in music, and then a PGCE, Hana was a primary school teacher for several years. Hana also completed the Bath Spa University Writing for Young People MA, and The Unadoptables was shortlisted for The Bath Children's Novel Award 2018. She lives in Bath with two humans and a cat.

Books by Hana Tooke


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *