Book Review – ‘The Unadoptables’ by Hana Tooke

TITLE: The Unadoptables
AUTHOR: Hana Tooke
GENRE: Middle Grade, Historical
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 384 pages
PUBLICATION DETAILS: by Penguin Australia on July 2nd, 2020
RRP: $16.99 AUD (paperback)


Blurb from Goodreads:

The amazing humour and world-building of Nevermoor meets the wisdom and warmth of Rooftoppers in this completely unforgettable and totally gorgeous comedy-adventure!

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 . . .

An absolute gem of a story set in Amsterdam that features a quirky Gothic vibe with mystery, adventure and above all, heart-warming friendship.

The Unadoptables focuses on five of the eldest orphans at the Little Tulip Orphanage who live in squalor under the gimlet eye of Elinora Gassbeak, its stern cold-hearted matron. After being confronted with the threat of being sold off into indentured servitude to a sinister ship captain, the children make a daring escape and set off into the unknown to follow a trail of clues that ringleader Milou believes will lead to her parents.

Milous is indisputably the heroine of this novel as it is told from her perspective and it’s her fervent and desperate hope to track down her family that propels the gang into a series of madcap misadventures and kooky schemes. She has an overactive imagination that she channels into forming theories about what possibly led her parents to leave her at the orphanage, recorded in her Book of Theories which has  amusing select extracts with adorable illustrations interspersed throughout the novel. But each of the children have their own special skills and endearing qualities that will make the reader invest in all of them, from shrewd scientific Lotta to kind-hearted loyal Sem to talented artist Egbert (Egg) and finally, the sweet Fenna who is selectively mute.


The found family trope is operating in full heartwarming force and makes this story a joy to read. Though the children don’t always agree on how to move forward and occasionally clash over their opinions, they’re all staunchly in each other’s corner and will drop everything to help one another, regardless of the cost. I loved their cleverness, wit and unwavering loyalty even in some surprisingly dark moments where they face danger and near-certain death.

This may be a children’s book, but the writing is both clear and understandable to younger readers while also possessing a sophistication that will appeal to adults as well. A couple red herrings that were immediately obvious to me will astonish and entrance children, and I have to admit a couple plot twists came out of nowhere and thrilled me towards the end. I love a good middle grade book that functions on multiple layers like this one, making it a rewarding read for audiences of all ages.

The Unadoptables is a brilliantly written story with fabulously quirky characters, unexpected plot developments and filled with constant thrills and excitement. Highly recommended!

Personal Rating: 5 out of 5 kitties recommend this book.







Disclaimer: Physical copy provided by publisher free for an unbiased review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

4 thoughts on “Book Review – ‘The Unadoptables’ by Hana Tooke

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s