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 . . .
Half Dutch/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. She also completed the Bath Spa University Writing for Young People MA, and The Unadoptables was shortlisted for The Bath Children's Novel Award 2018. Hana now lives in Bath with two humans and a cat.
Es una historia muy linda y tierna sobre encontrar la identidad tanto propia como familiar y cómo la familia puede venir de muchas formas y maneras 🥺 Los personajes son súper tiernos y la trama está buena, pero obviamente es un libro que apunta a una audiencia mucho más joven. Me hubiese encantado toparme con este libro a los 11 años porque sé que lo hubiese disfrutado mucho más de lo que lo disfruté con 19. Si tienen algun hermano/primo/hijo al que quieran adentrar en la lectura, esta es una muy buena opción!
"Unadoptable" can be a very harmful word for children in the foster care system. For a more eloquent and thorough conversation on this, please go to this Twitter thread by Nicole Chung.
All children deserve to find a welcoming home, and just because a child is not adopted does not mean there is something wrong with them.
That said, I also found Milou annoying, and liked the other children well enough. The epilogue felt unfinished, not quite enough to provide a sense of completion, but seemingly too much information for a sequel.
Please consider these thoughts before you purchase or endorse this book:
There is no denying that Hana Tooke can write. There is, however, the need to question whether or not she should. Especially when she writes books that, despite their well-written words and descriptions, are harmful to the very children she is writing for.
The Unadoptables – A book about five particular orphans at The Little Tulip Orphanage who are deemed 'unadoptable' by the matron that named them, Elinora Gassbeek. A cruel, foul woman, who is later revealed to be an orphan herself, and yet has no sympathy for the children in her care.
Lotta: Unadoptable because of her deformity – two-extra fingers. Egg: Unadoptable because of his Asian heritage. Fenna: Unadoptable because of her mutism. Sem: Unadoptable because of his appearance and large ears. Milou: Unadoptable for being outspoken and driven.
Ableistic, racist, and offensive. Teaching children that to be adopted you have to be white (sorry, Egg), beautiful (sorry, Sem), ‘normal’ (sorry, Lotta and Fenna), well-behaved and well-mannered (sorry, Milou)… Imagine you are a child in the system – either in foster care or up for adoption – and you read this. How would you feel? Destroyed. Hopeless. Lost. And most upsetting, unworthy. Unworthy of love or a home. This is what Hana Tooke’s debut, The Unadoptables, is teaching children. It’s teaching this to the children in the system, and its telling children out of the system that their classmates in foster care (etc.) are there because there’s something wrong, or undesirable, or unadoptable about them.
Throughout the book the adopters that approach the orphanage are depicted as vile and evil people. Again, sending the wrong message to children in and outside of the system… Our main protagonist, Rotman, wants the children as slaves. But even before we meet him, the first adopters we come across, Mr and Mrs Fortuyn, are vilified by Milou – a girl so desperate to find her real family that she rejects any adoption attempt and actively ruins them for her friends. (Milou exclaims that Mr and Mrs Fortuyn must be grave-robbers or something else even more evil). Furthermore, the entire adoption process is shown as transactional – as if the children can be bought and returned without any second thought. Mrs Fortuyn even goes as far as to say that shopping for children is ‘even better than buying a new handbag.’ (the fear of being returned or being abandoned again, as it is for many children in the system, is one that plagues many Looked After Children – thank you for making it into a joke).
Unadoptable. A word that fills children in care and hopeful adoptees with dread. It’s a word we’ve had thrown at us like knives, it’s a word we’ve feared to be branded with, and it’s one that has defined us and our childhood. It is a harmful word. It is our word. With harmful memories attached to it, and if anyone was to reclaim it, then it should have been one of us. Yet, despite this harmful word, no one questioned this book and its subject matter. Somehow, this word was deemed fit to be the title of a children’s book, one which Puffin (Penguin Random House) paid over £100,000 to publish…
Please, no more. Writers of children’s books often use orphans or foster care or adoption as an easy way to get rid of the parents in their stories so that their characters can go on adventures. It needs to stop. You do not understand the emotion or the suffering or the turmoil of what it is like to grow up like this. You never will. In the same breath that publishing has recently asked that you write your own stories without pillaging other ethnicities or voices, we also ask that you leave the system alone. Our lived experience is not a trope for you to exploit.
One of the 65,000+ children in care, currently living in the UK.
***A personal note to the author:*** Hana, I understand that this is your debut book, that you’ve probably dreamt about being published for a long time, and that there is a part of your soul within these pages. But that being said, I am disappointed and horrified to see you trivialise and villainise my lived experience. You researched windmills, you went to Amsterdam, but not once have you mentioned (in any of your interviews) that you spoke to children in the system. You wrote about us and never consulted us. Your story had huge potential to uplift our voices. Instead you exploited us. Furthermore, you never even intended or set out to write about orphans. Instead, merely wanting to write about ‘misfits’. Your work is filled with microaggressions and outright harmful moments, and instead of owning up to your mistakes, and apologising for the harm you are causing, you have hidden away – making your social media accounts all private the day that your book was called out for its perpetuation of stereotypes on Twitter. I am ashamed of you. I wait eagerly for you and Puffin to issue an apology.
ARC received from the publisher, Puffin UK, in exchange for an honest review.
The Unadoptables caught my eye because of its adorably whimsical cover, and I'm so glad to have read this wonderful tale of friendship and found family during this bleak and trying time.
I've always loved reading children's fiction for they have this wondrously cosy and endearing quality that much of adult fiction tend to lack. For me, it also never failed to harken back to my very early bookworm days as I devoured books in droves. All the Enid Blyton books that my extended family had could not satisfy my curiosity and yearning to explore through those pages. I could still recall my old and tattered paperback of The Children of Willow Farm that I've read at least a dozen times, and how much I wanted to live in a farm just like Rory, Sheila, Benjy and Penny. Or how much I wanted to attend a boarding school like Elizabeth Allen from The Naughtiest Girl in the School, or Darrell Rivers of Malory Towers that I've given myself the same English names during my middle grade and high school years.
Anyway, I've been digressing. The Unadoptables is author Hana Tooke's debut and it has all the makings of a great classic to be loved by generations to come. Set in the late 19th century Amsterdam, the period flavour lends timeless quality to the story of five unusual orphans who have been left at The Tulip Orphanage in a most unacceptable manner (according to the rules). For twelve years these five remained in the orphanage, deemed 'unadoptable' by the Elinora Gassbeek, its cruel matron. Milou, Lotta, Sem, Fenna and Egbert (more affectionately known as Egg) have grown into very distinguished and precocious individuals.
From the bravest to the cleverest, the most talented, kindest and sweetest in all of Amsterdam, these five exceptional children found themselves on an unexpected escapade on one fateful winter night. The tenacity, ingenuity, love and loyalty shown by these marvellous kids were charming and heartwarming to say the least. And there's nothing childish about the writing as well, which made it even more suitable for adults who already enjoy reading children's fiction. In fact, I was delightfully surprised with how brilliantly atmospheric and gothic the story was. To cap it all off, the book illustrations by Ayesha L. Rubio were wonderful and made the reading experience even more magical.
So, kick back with some Stroopwafels, a cup of coffee or tea, and let The Unadoptables whisk you away to 19th century Amsterdam for a fun and gothic adventure that will warm the cockles of your heart.
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.
Primero y principal, este libro es apuntado a un público infanto-juvenil, por lo que no se esperen encontrar con una confección compleja de la trama. De todos modos esto no quita lo hermoso y auténtico de la historia. El abordaje de temas en tanto a la familia y la construcción de la misma me pareció muy bien hecho. Te dan ganas de abrazar a los personajes, llorar y reír con ellos.
Es un libro para todas las edades, TODAS. Podes tener 50 pero este libro te puede parecer igual de esplendido que a alguien de 12. Porque esto se logró, tomar una historia simple, complejizarla, y agregarle aventuras y cosas más “descabelladas”. Haciendo que cualquiera que quiera leer lo pueda disfrutar.
Es súper divertido, van a pasar un rato ameno leyéndolo. Van a sacar sus teorías y todo desde un lado muy chill e inocente. Porque eso es el libro, algo muy tranquilo para leer y simplemente disfrutar del rato.
Léanlo enserio. Merece mucho más hype y reconocimiento. Tiene un lugar guardado en mi corazón <3
With regards to the people criticising this book, I can see that, at first glance, The Unadoptables would look like an offensive title. What I don't understand is why anyone with even a shred of common sense would believe that anyone would publish a book in order to demonise orphaned children. Then there's the fact that nothing about the synopsis suggests that Hana Tooke is actually saying these children don't deserve to be adopted. Instead, she is celebrating the things that make these children spectacular. Far from being unadoptable, the children in this book are brilliant in their own way. Tooke isn't making an observation about the children but about the people who write them off. Anyone who bothered reading the book would realise that the word "unadoptable" has been reclaimed by the children and is meant to empower rather than suppress them.
It's also worth noting that the book is set in the late 1800s, so the idea that people would be dismissive of otherness is accurate. Stating a historical fact is not the same as condoning that attitude. The 5 children at the centre of this book would, in all likelihood, have struggled to get adopted in Amsterdam during that time. Not once does Tooke say that they deserve to be left in care for their entire lives. She just understands that society was prejudiced to people of other races or with disabilities. It was also a time in which social care wasn't as carefully curated as it is today. This isn't the current adoption experience but more of an Oliver Twist style adoption process.
Something of a shame for our five heroes. None of them fall in the conventional idea of what makes up a prospective parent's ideal adoptee as they each have something that puts people off. Like Lotta's extra fingers; Egg's Asian background; the fact that Fenna is mute; Sem's big ears and clumsiness; and Milou's outspokenness and surly attitude. When pitted against the younger and cuter orphans they live with, these 5 stand out for all of the wrong reasons. When we first meet them, they have been in the orphanage for 12 years and their awful matron, Elinora Gassbeek, has had enough. So, she plans to sell them off to an unscrupulous businessman. Thankfully, before he can take them away to a life of endless toil, Milou finds a clue about her parents. Can the children escape their doom and unlock the secrets of Milou's family?
When this book really gets going, it turns into an exciting little adventure story. There is danger and excitement at every turn, so I can see younger readers being enthralled with the story. There is some darkness here and the children do have the occasional brush with death. However, it is also a story about love and companionship. The friends all work together in order to achieve some incredible feats. This is a story about how wrong first impressions can be. People might initially see these children as being less than perfect but, when it comes down to it, they are all capable of doing great things.
It is also a book that shows you don't need to find your worth in what society or its systems think about you. The supposed "unadoptables" seem doomed to never find a family. Of course, as the narrative moves on, it becomes clear that they have already found one. If society has turned its back on these 5 kids then they're going to turn their back on it too. This is a book that celebrates the non-traditional family. It celebrates the idea that a family is whatever you make it. Meaning you can make a family with people who see you for what you really are rather than what you seem. It's an empowering and wonderful message. Something that is getting ignored because of some people's wilful misunderstanding of the title.
Inside this book is a rich story of friendship, imagination and courage. It takes us through the streets of Amsterdam and takes on an unforgettable journey. There are so many fun aspects of this story and it takes you on a few unexpected turns. The two major villains here are both deliciously awful and provide plenty of terror to the tale. I admit, it gets a little messy in places and there are some sequences that seem unnecessary or slightly too long. The final twist in the tale is something that adult readers will be able to see coming a mile off but would probably work for the intended audience. The Unadoptables is an emotional, fun and unforgettable story. Hana Tooke has a fantastic ability to create characters and set the scene. She's clearly a very talented writer and I look forward to seeing what comes next.
This was such a fun story!! The focus on family and the way the found family trope was executed was so heartwarming and I also loved how it was a mix of mystery and adventure. A must read for all MG readers! ❤
nota: 2,8?? 3??? no sé no sé A VER ESTÁ BUENO pasa que 1) EL MAYOR PROBLEMA DE ESTE LIBRO: DIOS MIO QUE LENTITUD. Nono chicos no empezaba MÁS, ya estaba en la página 230 sin saber cómo hacer para interesarme en la trama más lenta del planeta.
2) por ahí resultó ser para un público más chico de lo que esperaba(? PASA QUE en verdad la historia es re tierna y tipo te abraza el corazón un toque. NO SÉ.
3) A medida que avanza el libro te empieza a gustar MIL VECES MÁS, además que te encariñas bastante con los personajes. Pero bueno, tenes que pasar por medio libro de estar ahí tipo 😑🤔 ahre.
4) PASIÓN ETERNA POR SEM, fue verdaderamente mi personaje favorito. Pensé que [spoiler] iba a terminar con Milou, pero bueno me gustó que termine en un tono super familiar, de hermandad y amistades :,)
5) las últimas 150 paginas son TREMENDAS tipo los giros, cuando empiezan a planear el show de marionetas, toooda la escena del barco, posta que me re gustó.
Lo recomiendo para leer una cosa tranqui, pura y fresca :D (si están en bloqueo lector, no tanto, pero denle una chance!!)
I did not read this book but as an adoptive mom, I am outraged that this book was even published! To claim that kids with disabilities, physical deformities and from other cultures are deemed unadoptable is completely wrong. A total misrepresentation of the adoption/foster care/disabled community. From a (rave) trade review: "Each longs to be adopted, but would-be parents reject them when they see the kids’ atypical attributes: Lotta’s 12 fingers, Egg’s East Asian ancestry (other characters default to white), Fenna’s muteness, clumsy Sem’s ears, and Milou’s wild ferocity."
I have been thinking a lot about this book and its unfortunate title. I am the mother of two adopted children, and neither of them, 16 year old and 11 year old, want to read this book due to the title. My husband hates the title. And I remember how much I hated it when I was handed a review ARC initially. I realized that it was trying to reclaim the word, that "unadoptable" should always be in ironic quote marks. I moved past it to read the story which is about how the children are lovable and absolutely adoptable. The impact on adopted children, however, is telling about how successful that is. It isn't.
My son, 11, said if he saw the book faced out on one of my library shelves, he would hope none of his friends saw it. And that he would hope that he wasn't there if they did.
Unadoptable is a term used against children who are growing up in foster care or adoption systems at every stage of a vulnerable child's life, but as they become older it is used in increasingly harmful ways. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is a similar story, but the title finds a way to be respectful of the children and their abilities. I couldn't read A Series of Unfortunate Events from The Bad Beginning because those children are never cared for or shown any mercy from the whims of the adults they encounter. My daughter's example was The War That Saved My Life, which is historical fiction filled with adventure but with a universal title that allows all kinds of readers to engage with an adoption story.
We also live in the Netherlands, and I immediately wondered if the clunky title was a riff of The Undutchables: An Observation of the Netherlands: Its Culture and Its Inhabitantss, which was also a play on The Untouchables action adventure movie (also a hugely problematic term). The Undutchables is a well-known book in expat circles and local interest shelves about Dutch culture and its peculiarities. This is clearly, to me, a connection the publisher might have made alongside the reclaiming-a-hateful-word goal, but I'm not sure how they didn't think about how the word "unadoptable" works in the world of thousands of children and their families. As one Twitter user said, how hard it is to do a Google search on that term?
I should have written to them immediately myself, but I understood as an adult the reclaiming/irony/Undutchables rationales, and was able move past the title to read the book itself and understand that the book is all about being true to yourself and creating a family with love and determination. But that title is triggering for so many, and absolutely doesn't work for vulnerable children and families touched by adoption or foster care.
And that's unfortunate, because this is definitely a book about finding a family that loves and cherishes everything about a child however unique. In this story, five orphans, Sem, Egg, Lotta, Fenna and Milou, are twelve years old and languishing in a cold, sinister Amsterdam canal house, home of The Little Tulip orphanage. They have been called unadoptable, but at least they have each other. That is, until a decidedly creepy ship owner decides to adopt them all in a sinister deal cut with their abusive matron Elinora Gassbeek for free labor for his shipping business.
Milou has never given up on her birth family coming to find her, holding on resolutely to the threads of clues about where she came from, including a cat puppet, a scrap of velvet cloth, and a box shaped like a coffin. Panicked by the threat of leaving and her birth family never being able to find her, she decides to go and find them once and for all. Her friends won't let her go by herself and so, vowing to stay together, the children make a desperate plan to escape through the cold streets of Amsterdam out into the countryside towards a future home where they can be together.
Once past the unfortunate title, Tooke's debut is a timeless Dickensian/Dahl-esque adventure with a uniquely Dutch setting and atmosphere. There are engaging illustrations punctuating the action throughout by Ayesha L. Rubio. The production value of the book is stunning, treated with care by the publisher. I just can't believe they chose that title. It also reminded me in unique ways of Angela Carter's adult novel The Magic Toyshop. This is a story that would need some careful presentation to students in my school, as I would not know how the word unadoptable would impact them. My library has to be a safe space, and I just don't know how to do that with this title.
Look I’m not gonna read this because a story about kids not being “adoptable” because of disability??? Or race???? IS NOT HEARTWARMING? Whose idea was this? Trauma sells I guess. Adoptees are real people, not your whimsy templates, and do not deserve this treatment in books.
Thanks to Nicole Chung on Twitter for bringing this to my attention.
Es una historia bonita llena de valores sobre la amistad y la familia, como el concepto más amplio que pueda existir. Sin embargo, no me encantó como pensé que lo haría.
Milou, Fenna, Lotta, Egg y Sem son los mayores del Orfanato Tulipán, llevan 12 años ahí y nadie nunca los ha adoptado porque no son como los demás niños. Cada uno tiene una peculiaridad y así es como se quieren entre ellos, pero cuando un hombre misterioso quiere llevárselos Milou hará lo que sea para demostrarles a sus amigos que no es lo que aparenta.
El libro es bonito, en especial, la amistad que une a los protagonistas y el cómo se cuidan entre ellos y apoyan cada gusto y pasión que tienen. Por lejos, es lo mejor del libro, las relaciones entre los niños y el amor natural entre ellos que se ve en los pequeños gestos, la autora no necesitó grandes párrafos ni palabras profundas para demostrar que se querían, bastaba con lo más pequeño para hacerlo evidente.
La historia me sonaba a algo, la idea de los huérfanos y una de ellos que sabe que sus padres irán por ella, que sabe que no fue abandonada por elección y está esperando que vayan a salvarla. Al final, todo gira a favor de que Milou siga las pistas sobre su abandono para descifrar su pasado, pues es la que está más obsesionada con él a diferencia de los otros, excepto por Egg. Por eso acompañaremos a los niños mientras logran lidiar con distintos obstáculos para formar un hogar temporal y así conseguir la libertad que tanto anhelan.
Admito que Milou estaba en el límite de que me cayera mal, no lo hizo, es una niña y tenía su personalidad y como personaje me parece muy bien. Sin embargo, esos rasgos egoístas en los que ponía su historia y sus necesidades por sobre los demás era cuando me caía menos bien. Sin embargo, el personaje siempre encontraba el foco correcto y sabía ordenar sus prioridades en los momentos de necesidad. Me gustó eso, por un momento temí que recién al final tuviera su instante de entender qué era lo importante, por suerte lograba mantener un equilibrio entre sus obsesiones y el preocuparse por los demás.
Los demás niños eran adorables a su propia manera. Fenna era una ternura y me gustaba el cómo lograba ser el consuelo para Milou, la relación entre ambas era muy bonita y, como dije antes, era algo que se veía en los gestos sin necesidad de grandes palabras. Lotta era la chica inteligente y científica, la que usaba la lógica y la ciencia para solucionar los problemas de los demás. Egg era el artista y el cartógrafo, el que conocía una ciudad que nunca recorrió, pero también el que lidiaba con ser diferente a los demás (tenía raíces asiáticas). Sem me sorprendió, partió como el chico torpe que le gustaba coser, pero demostró ser mucho más maduro de lo que esperaba, me gustó el cómo era una roca para los demás.
Ahora, tengo que admitir que no me llegó como pensé que lo haría ni la historia tampoco. Los middle-grade que me marcan son esos que: 1) Tienen un narrador que se vuelve un personaje más, más allá de la historia y los personajes, es la forma en que está contada lo que le aporta ese toque único (Percy Jackson, Alcatraz, Una serie de eventos desafortunados) 2) La historia funciona tanto para adultos como para niños, los tres middle-grade que mencioné antes los leí como adulta mientras que mi hermano los leyó como niño y ambos los disfrutamos por igual. Acá me faltaron ambos componentes, la narración estuvo bien. No destaca ni para bien ni para mal, se queda dentro de un rango normal, pero no tenía ese "algo" que me enamora en estos libros. Y, al mismo tiempo, la historia nunca tuvo dejó el tono infantil y ofreció un poco más. El único momento en el que vislumbré algo más, algo que podía ser un poco o más oscuro o adulto fue con la historia del carnaval, pero ahí quedó.
Fuera de eso, Los inadoptables es una historia adorable que se centra en la relación de cinco niños que se quieren y cuidan por sobre todas las adversidades. Cinco niños inteligentes y especiales que luchan para ganarse la libertad que siempre soñaron mientras buscan respuestas sobre sus pasados.
OH MY GOUDA. This book, guys. I’ve already gushed about in on twitter, so sorry if you’ve already seen this before, but I need to talk about this book. THE UNADOPTABLES tells the story of five orphans in 19th century Amsterdam who are thrown into an adventure when they are forced to escape their orphanage one night. I visited Amsterdam a few years ago, and fell in love with it, so reading a novel set there was just fantastic. Hana captures the feel and essence of this magical city with ease, transporting the reader not only geographically but also back time. The world-building was complex and multi-layered, and partly because of this I sunk completely into the story.
This neatly moves us on to the next point of my gush-fest: the plot. It was compelling and twisty-turny and pace-y and unputdownable. Basically, it was a fantastic story. ALSO, there was a fortune teller. On to our main characters: we have five of them, which was daunting (I have a hard time keeping up when there are lots of characters). However, each of the unadaptable orphans were so different from each other, and they were complex and 3D people, so it was very easy to keep track of who was speaking and to whom. I also adored the diversity of the MC’s–we have a person of colour, a disabled character, and a character with selective mutism.
FINALLY, Hana’s writing was exquisite. This was one of those stories where certain sentences and turns of phrase made me OOH and AHH with appreciation (and a little bit of writerly jealously). This has been one of my favourite reads of 2020 so far; it is most definitely a classic in the making, and you need to read it when it comes out in July. I have pre-ordered, and I will definitely be re-reading it in the near future.
I absolutely LOVED this book! These kids were their own family, & best friends & I loved every aspect of that in here. They’ve escaped the orphanage where the matron is awful, & tells them basically that they’re Unadoptables. I understand why someone would be offended by that term w/o context but if these people would take the time to READ THE BOOK THEY ARE BASHING, they will see that the things that make people shy away from them, are actually what make them special. Who wants to be like every other single person in the world anyway. Plus, this is in the 1800s, & people had some weird ideas & beliefs back then. Anything that was different especially, was frowned upon & shunned. Also, the matron had 3 rules for a baby that’s abandoned. The rules were never broken until these 5 kids were left. So she hates them more so than the others for that from the start. They are also on the run from a very creepy man, who I despise! What an evil person! They head off on a mission together, & have the grandest adventure ever. They’re finally getting to see the world outside the orphanage, & it’s a beautiful thing. The bond b/n Milou, Lotta, Egg, Fenna, & Sem was amazing. Their friendship, the setting & the description of it, & the story just made this book sooo good. Milou is the character point of view we read from, & the story the author created for her was just brilliant. I loved it. It ended w/an opportunity for more books, maybe from each kids point of view? I really hope so, & hope that if she was planning on it, that a bunch of hateful people didn’t change her mind. I highly recommend this.💜I had the paperback, but when I saw the naked hardback I knew I had to get it. Such beautiful illustrations- on the outside, & the inside on every chapter page.😍
PS-This is a perfect example of when I said I was tired of seeing a bunch of authors attacked, & their books & that I disagree w/that. I haven’t seen this author on any social since the end of July, & it’s makes me so sad. She didn’t deserve any of that. She didn’t mean anything hurtful or of ill meaning by this. If people would read the book the title would make sense, & would not be offensive. I can see where some may be offended who haven’t read it by just seeing the name....but since when are we ready to throw stones at someone over a name of a book we haven’t even read?? 😤😤
* I received an e-galley from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Reviewing from an adoption, child welfare lens this is a frustrating book from the title to the very last page. The author falls into the same tired tropes of orphans, foster youth and adoptees needing to be either a savior or anti-christ (see Good Omens). If our Otherness isn't in service to the whole world (or at least potential adoptive family) then we are ungrateful, damaged goods and have no value as human beings. While she does make some effort to include a positive message it doesn't change the fact that the initial messages feed into adoption narratives that perpetuate misconceptions about orphans, foster youth and adoptees, their families of origin, and adoption practice in general. Not to mention her token inclusion of an East Asian adoptee and then the othering of that child because of their race and ethnicity that follows. As a book for kids I can't recommend this to ever being given to any child with family separation/loss in their history a or children who could ever come in contact with them - because often it is from other children that adoptees and foster youth first experience the painful othering and racism because of family loss. “Unadoptable” isn't a make-believe term that Tooke just made-up, there is history there. Many agencies use “Adoptable” as a term for the children they present to prospective parents. They change our stories, demographics, needs, and sugarcoat the realities of adoption to make children more "adoptable." The question of whether you were an 'unwanted throw away', 'given up as a sacrifice or for love' is something that many children with family separation/loss must contend with. Then comes the reality of who gets eventually "chosen" and who doesn't. There are hundreds of Facebook groups that promote 2nd Chance Adoptions that feed the unregulated (and often illegal) Rehoming of adoptees when adoptive parents decide they do not want the adoptee any longer. In these situations abuse of children is rampant. This is what many adoptees deal with and it pervades a child protection system in a society where children are deemed unwanted and unadoptable. With the persistence of this narrative comes little need or effort by adults in society to protect these children in cases of abuse because the adoptive parents have taken on a “difficult” child, they adopted the unadoptable. To a young adoptee “unadoptable” means undeserving of care and protection - it really just means unlovable. To have these issues used so thoughtlessly in a book for children who may have this history is devastating. Tooke seems to think her fantasies happen in a vacuum - they do not.
A huge thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for providing me with a free eARC in exchange for an honest review!
If you've seen my RTC post, you'd know this was rated 3.5/5 at first, rounded up to 4 because GR still doesn't allow us half stars. Pretty soon after I'd already decided to round it down to 3. And a bit later still, while I was writing out this review in my head, I realized there really isn't a lot I liked about this book, and a lot that I didn't, so the rating went down further. I rounded it down to show the issues. 3 stars isn't a good rating for me, personally, but for a lot it's still okay. So it's rounded down to 2.
First things first.
I was so excited about this book and fully expected to love it. I was ready to support my fellow Dutch folk and rec this to everyone.
And yet here I am.
I struggled with this book from the minute I started it. I just couldn't connect to it or the characters. And that is really the least of its problems. For starters this is yet another book where orphans are living in a terror orphanage; being treated like vermin and worked to the bone. The line up at the start where the orphans are being judged like chattle reminded me of Tracy Beaker, as I think they did line ups too. The adopters acting like they were choosing a toy or puppy was gross, being led by the matron, and it really pissed me off. On top of that, it is implied -very strongly, it's almost said straight out!- that if you are anything but 'normal' you are 'unadoptable'.
Asian boy? Nope. Girl with 12 fingers who is a brilliant with science? Nope. Boy with ears that stick out? Nope. A mute girl? Nope. A girl with black hair and black eyes? Nope.
Why would you want kids to read that? The comments the adopters have about these children make it more than clear, and there is no note in the book anywhere to reassure children that it is never their own fault if they're not yet adopted. That this book is set in the 19th century and that sadly people were different then- not that that makes it okay. Because it doesn't. Both the matron of the orphanage, the adopters, and even the Kinderbureau, treat and talk about these children as if they are objects, which in inexcusable in any time or situation ever.
I later found out that the term 'unadoptable' is an absolute no go and incredibly offensive, meaning the title is already hurtful to a lot of children. Just look at the comments, look it up on twitter- there are plenty of stories there from people who are either adopters or adopted, and who can explain it much better than I ever could.
Now you could argue that this isn't the point of the story. You'd be right, too, because it isn't. The point is to show found family, and perseverance. And that part is heartwarming, and the ending is lovely, which is the reason why initially my rating was higher.
The characters themselves are just not great either. Milou, a storyteller, is focused on one thing and one thing only: finding her family. She is so one track minded that even when Egg wants answers about his own heritage, she waves him off because her quest is more important. It takes a kidnapping to get her to shift her priorities. I know they're children, but if you want to sell the found family and loving each other, you can't have such a selfish character; especially not when she's the POV of the story.
The other kids are nothing more than their skills and 'otherness', like Fenna's muteness and Egg's being Asian. They are there to lift up Milou, and their skills are needed for the story. They are nothing without them, without Milou, and it makes me question why they are so close and would risk so much for each other.
The setting is lovely, and that is saying something because I loathe Amsterdam. I guess there is just something about the 19th century and winter that makes things feel more magical.
All the Dutch phrases and words are great, even if some seem off in the context; kindjes, most of all- not to mention Egg, whose name is Egbert... and let me tell you that Egbert pronounced the way it should be, has no egg sound in there anywhere. I mean seriously, Bert would have made more sense. These things make me suspect that Tooke has been pretty out of practice with the Dutch language and its pronunciation. This does however mean that for anyone who speaks Dutch, the audiobook is something to be avoided. I love Gemma Whelan and this is nothing against her, but I will never understand why it's apparently impossible to teach narrators the foreign words they are supposed to read. So yeah, might want to avoid the audio!
This review has become very long and frankly, I'm too tired to go back to read through it all and make it more coherent, as I'm sure it could be. Just, know what you're picking up, and know what you'd be reccing to kids.
Tooke has turned her Twitter account private after people started telling her the problems with this book, and no comment has been made by her or any of the publishing team, which I feel is very telling in and of itself. I'm disappointed.
Por favor, ¿me podía haber encantado más? Ha sido una monada de historia, de esas que te achuchan el corazón desde el minuto uno, y que sin llegar a ser de fantasía, está llena de una magia especial, la de la ilusión, la imaginación y el amor de unos niños que solo quieren ser felices y tener un hogar propio, donde los quieran y los acepten a pesar de sus diferencias, o no "a pesar", sino viendo lo especial que hay en ellas.
No suelo coincidir cuando recomiendan algún libro haciendo referencia a otro, pero en esta ocasión, admito que sí me ha recordado a las historias de Andersen, junto con Una serie de catastróficas desdichas y algo de Los hermanos Darling: aventuras, picaresca, personajes muy queribles y escenas emocionantes y divertidas.
I enjoyed the orphans' shenanigans in this book. They show true teamwork and love for each other as they come up with ways to overcome obstacles and save themselves. I liked the interesting tidbits of Dutch language and culture that was included since I didn't know much about it to begin with. This story has suspense and mystery galore. It felt a bit slow at parts, but I'm glad I kept on because the end was wonderful. :) I took off a star because the Rotman storyline seemed a bit odd. Why was he so fixated on these specific children?
There are lots of people who say that the book promotes harmful ideas of orphanages and adoptions, but this is set in the past and there were lots of orphanages in the 1800s all over the world that didn't do for children what we think is right today. The mistress of the orphanage is obviously a villain and I don't think children reading this book will think that she is running a normal orphanage.
I have to say penguin publishing knows how to get a girl interested in a proof copy sending it with stroopwaffels (my fave's) and tea with the book tied with a beautiful gold ribbon. Nostalgia for my Dutch childhood flashed before my eyes and I had to be the one to take it home. The book, just like it's packaging was beautiful I enjoyed the twists and turns of the orphans adventures and loved every single one of them. It was a truly lovely kids book full of adventure, wild children's imaginations and a plot twist which kept me wanting more. Overall a very wholesome read and I hope Hana Tooke will enjoy considerable success when it is published in May 2020 can't wait to see if she writes any more.
MARAVILLOSO libro de aventuras juvenil, donde acompañaremos a cinco niños increíbles en una aventura realmente extraordinaria. Estos cinco niños son abandonados en la puerta del orfanato Tulipán, y durante 12 años no son adoptados por ninguna familia debido a sus “peculiaridades”, y su matrona, lejos de ayudarlos, les hace la vida imposible. Los cinco tendrán que permanecer unidos para afrontar lo que les ha tocado vivir, y tratar de escapar de la vida que realmente no tienen.
Me parece un libro perfecto para todos los públicos desde los 9-10 años. Me ha devuelto a mis años de Los cinco de Enid Blyton, me ha hecho pasar un muy buen rato, y tiene esa intriga que atrapará a todo el que lo lea, para saber cómo acabarán nuestros cinco amigos.
Además, tiene una serie de reflexiones muy bonitas sobre la amistad, el aceptar las diferencias y demás. Y nos hará viajar en el tiempo para vivir la realidad de la época, y también en el espacio ya que recorreremos Ámsterdam.
En conclusión, libro muy recomendado para jóvenes y con el que los adultos también disfrutarán. Emoción, intriga, amistad, valores y conocimiento de otra época. ¿Qué más se puede pedir?