The Unadoptables (Hardcover)

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(Youth Fiction)

Staff Reviews

Cheri's June 2020 pick

Five poor, unadoptable orphans have quite a sad life. But what they lack in comforts they make up for in tenacity. These orphans all came to the orphanage in interesting ways, all in the same year. For example, one orphan came, “wrapped in a soot-stained shawl,” “abandoned by a coal bunker.” Each abandonment perhaps left clues regarding each orphan’s background. Milou’s, in particular, left a name, B. Poppenmaker. Milou is convinced that her parents will be back for her at any moment, and she wants to be ready. When circumstances at the orphanage give the five a chance at freedom, they take it. With Milou as their leader, they seem to find her family home, and empty abandoned windmill and puppet theater. But there are many forces just as determined to ruin the orphans’ chances. The orphans aren’t sure who to trust. 

The Unadoptables is a page-turner. I was quickly taken by the author’s unique writing style and by the five orphans this book is about. Hana Tooke’s style reminds me a bit of Lemony Snicket. I also loved its setting, the Amsterdam of 1880.  Mysterious and heartwarming, I recommend this novel enthusiastically.

— From Cheri


Neil Gaiman meets Hans Christian Andersen in this delicious fairy tale full of mysterious spirits, daring escapes, and a beautiful message about the power of found families.

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 their cruel matron might think they're "unadoptable," they know their individuality is what makes them special--and so determined to stay together.

When a most sinister gentleman appears and threatens to tear them apart, the gang make a daring escape across the frozen canals of Amsterdam. But is their real home--and their real family--already closer than they realize?

About the Author

Hana Tooke was born in Alkmaar, the Netherlands, and now lives in Bath, England, with her family, a cat, and a spider called Spooder Bob. She received her BA in music from Plymouth University and an MA in writing for young people from Bath Spa University. Before becoming a children's book author, Hana was a singer, a primary school teacher, a cheese seller, and a mad scientist.

Praise For…

Raves for The Unadoptables:

"Unfolding with the clarity of a fairy tale, this sure-footed debut casts a delightfully spooky spell."--Kirkus
Product Details
ISBN: 9780593116937
ISBN-10: 0593116933
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: July 21st, 2020
Pages: 384