The Unadoptables, written by Hana Tooke was one of the best children’s books I have read all year. It was funny, full of heart and buzzing with character!
I have to admit that the title is somewhat confronting though and has caused waves of anger and upset due to its negative connotations and very nearly put me off reading the book. But I am glad that I did in the end. This book is not about abandonment but about the coming together of an unlikely family. It’s not about being ostracized but about celebrating uniqueness. It is not about being without a family, it’s about finding family. The title may have been a huge oversight ahead of publication, but the heart of the book is full of positive messages and leaves the reader feeling that glow at the end of the book.
Not only did I love it but so did my middle son, Calum, who rated it a whopping 10 out of 10, placing it alongside the ranks of Harry Potter, Keeper of the Lost Cities and everything by Katherine Rundell too!
So… why did we love it so much?
This book is set in the late 1800s, Amsterdam. It features an unforgettable cast of five orphans, left as babies at the Little Tulip Orphanage; 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. Twelve years later those children remain at the orphanage, unadopted but still together, until one night when a sinister gentleman arrives and threatens to tear them apart. Following a daring escape, the children embark on the hunt for a new home where adventure and more danger awaits! Without giving away any spoilers, this book examines how friendships can create ever-lasting bonds as strong as any family.
Each of the children has a rich character and I was totally routing for each of them throughout. They were courageous, imaginative, compassionate and full of fun too – they have a lot to teach their readers and they do so brilliantly!
The setting for this book is brilliantly written, with multi-layered and complex world-building. It feels fresh, unique and is some of the best quality writing I have read in a long time. It was honestly transporting, both to a historical past as well as a different country. The writing for this book is some of the best I have read in a long time. Tookes descriptions are rich and sensory and a wonderful lesson to our children in how to write with emotion. The illustrations are lovely too – simple but work well with the text.
Concepts of what it meant to be accepted in history are definitely present, but they are thoroughly unraveled and dismissed in this book. Instead Tooke celebrates each child’s brilliance and ensures that the children reclaim their power and rights to a happy life.
Please don’t dismiss this book down to the title – there is so much to love here and through the story line Tooke shames the term unadoptable. Instead, she celebrates the children in the story, giving each of them strength, heart and a powerful voice. Highly recommend!!!!