The Unadoptables: Five fantastic children on the adventure of a lifetime

The Unadoptables: Five fantastic children on the adventure of a lifetime

By Author / Illustrator

Hana Tooke, Ayesha L. Rubio



Age range(s)



Penguin Random House Children's UK








"A compelling, gorgeously-written story about the power of friendship and the true meaning of family . . . perfection!" Robin Stevens, author of Murder Most Unladylike. "A high-speed, witty, absurd and joyful adventure." Katherine Rundell, author of Rooftoppersand The Good Thieves.

The remarkable. The extraordinary. The brave.

Way back in the autumn of 1880, five babies are discovered at the Little Tulip Orphanage in most unusual circumstances. Those babies are Lotta, Egbert, Fenna, Sem and Milou.  The vile matron calls the children 'the unadoptables' but this talented gang of best friends know that their individuality is what makes them so special - and so determined to stay together.  When a sinister gentleman tries to get them in his clutches, the children make a daring escape across the frozen canals of Amsterdam, embarking on an adventure packed with pirate ships and puppets. But is their real home - and their real family - already closer than they realize?



The Unadoptables is a stunningly spooky and sinister story of loyalty, determination and family packed with adventure and adversity.

Amsterdam, 1886. The Little Tulip Orphanage has strict rules on how babies should be delivered, but that autumn, five children arrive in ways that break every rule. Their indiviuality and appearances make them unadoptable. Hope that parents will return or they may be chosen slowly dwindles as the years pass, until a sinister gentleman arrives... And so, in a bid to stay together, the 'unadoptables' begin a daring escape and a search for a family with the smallest of clues to set them on their way.

The children's unique voices shine throughout, with each using their talents to keep the group going when life deals them yet more set backs. Imagination and ingenuity, teamwork and tenacity are in plentiful supply as they strive to escape the system they were abandoned in and find a new life, together.

Gassbeck is as penny pinching and mean a Matron to the orphans of Amsterdam in her charge as the Master of the orphanage in Oliver. But, she pales in comparison to the sheer cruelty of Rotman who will stop at nothing to ensure his ship sails with the orphans he's been promised.

Whether in the city, or the polder, on rooftops or frozen rivers, Hana transports the reader back in time to each setting with ease, immersing us into the children's world. Ayesha's stunning illustrations at the beginning of each chapter bring both the characters and settings to life.

With an ending that was nothing short of perfection, The Unadoptables is as mesmerizing as it is menacing, a truly marvellous read.

Great for fans of The Peculiars by Keiran Larwood, The Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine and Strange Star by Emma Carroll.

400 pages / Reviewed by Nicola Cleveland, school librarian

Suggested Reading Age 9+


The Unadoptables is a truly magical story of orphans, adventure, and of longing for something that seems so out of reach; belonging to a family. The Little Tulip Orphanage in 1880 Amsterdam is, as you would expect in a story about orphans, cold, miserable and run by a truly horrid woman. Five orphans have been on the parades for prospective adoptees for seemingly ever and never been selected. Suddenly, however, they are selected, but they really do not want to be adopted by the evil-looking Mr. Rotman, so escape, led by Milou who is convinced her parents - who abandoned her all those years ago - can be found by using the clues she thinks they have left.

Following the co-ordinate clue they stumble across the mill Milou is convinced is her home. But her parents are not there. Then follows a magical series of events leading to a heart-warming conclusion, but not without danger and peril on the way!

The five children are strong characters, but it is Milou who takes centre stage, longing for the family she never had, but so convinced it was all a mistake and they will return for her. Fenna, Lotta, Sem and Egg show her great loyalty and by the close of the story, Milou realises these orphans are the family for which she has been searching.

Each child has their own particular story and talent, most memorably Egg who has mapped Amsterdam from the roof of the orphanage and who has an old cloth which, when cleaned, shows that it came from Java.

The cold of a Dutch winter with its frozen canals permeates the story with wonderful word pictures of the countryside and the old mill. All the characters have splendid names; Edda Finkelstein, who makes clocks, is a Polder Warden and has an amazing eyebrow; Bram Poppenmaker, who Milu is convinced is her father, and the awful Mrs. Gassbeek, head of the orphanage.

The small drawings at the beginning of each chapter add immeasurably to the story, and the plot carries the reader on and on until the satisfying ending which a book like this does need, otherwise the reader could be heartbroken! Surely this marvellous, magical story should be a medal winner?

400 pages / Reviewed by Janet Fisher, librarian

Suggested Reading Age 9+


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