The Unadoptables by Hanna Tooke | All elements I love about middle-grade in one book!

I’m obsessed with «The Unadoptables» by Hanna Tooke! It’s one of the best middle-grade books I’ve read in a long time. This book had it all – adventure, friendship, family, high stakes, endearing main characters, and incredible story-telling. 

Currently, it’s not marked as part of a series on Goodreads, but I would love to read more about the main group of friends. I definitely can see the potential for at least 4 more books. This one was focused on Milou’s story, but we still have Lotta, Egg, Fenna, and Sem’s backgrounds to discover.


goodreads blurb:

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 . . .

Thank you Netgalley and Penguin Random House UK Children’s – Puffin,  for a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own and not influenced by the company or its affiliates in any way.


Milou, Lotta, Fenna, Sem and Egg were left as babies at the Little Tulip Orphanage. But what sets them off from the other orphans is how they were left – one in a tin toolbox, one in a coal bucket, one in a picnic hamper, one in a wheat sack and one in a coffin-shaped basket. Their appearance has broken every orphanage rule. Not only it was outrageous, they also grew up to be claimed the “unadoptables” – children who stayed at the Orphanage for the longest time. 

1 – Close-knit friendships are my weakness in books, and no other genre does it better than Children’s fiction. Every time I read middle grade I keep asking myself why I don’t read more of it! It always brings me so much joy to read about drama-free friendships, and it reminds me of how simple things used to be before my teenage years. Milou, Lotta, Fenna, Sem and Egg portray the relationship I always strived for – they look after each other and always put their friends first, no matter the cost. 

2 – Set in Amsterdam, during the 19th century, «The Unadoptables» has all the necessary qualities to become a new classic. This is the book children should read in school, and this is the book I would have adored as a child. We often wonder why so many people don’t read and my answer to this question is that they just haven’t picked up the right book that would’ve made them fall in love with the fictional world. I believe that «The Unadoptables» can be just that book for a lot of children out there. 

3 – In most middle-grade books I’ve read so far, the main protagonists usually embark on some sort of adventure. And that sense of the unknown, the thrill of discover are what usually pulls me into the story. The adventure in «The Unadoptables» is a little bit different than what I’m used to, but its emotional context made me fall in love with the story even more. In this book, the children are looking for their family, their parents that abandoned them 12 years ago, and more specifically, we follow Milou, who always believed that her parents left her the clues to let her know that she is loved and not forgotten. 

I hope Hanna Tooke writes more books about the unadoptables and explores the stories of the other 4 children – their appearance at the orphanage was definitely under very strange circumstances and I’m very curious to see what other stories adventures and what other discoveries they will make.

Besides the adventure, this story didn’t shy away from the danger as well. The stakes were always kept very high, especially considering how emotionally invested Milou was in finding her family and learning more about them. 

4 – Like all good middle grades, this book had the exquisite villains that you were made to loath from the very beginning. This is always an important element in children’s books, as it brings unity to the main squad and you instantly grow attached to them. There was a little redeeming arc for one of the villains that I also liked, but that might be too subtle for children to notice. 

5 – And finally, «The Unadiptables» showed what it means to be a family and how you can choose yourself a new family when the “original” one didn’t want you enough to keep you. Stories about orphans are not unusual. All I have to say is that this particular one was incredibly well. Furthermore, I never read a book with a whole cast of orphans as mains characters and I really loved how emotional and heartwarming the story was. 

My rating:
★★★★★

This year I’ve read some incredible middle-grade books and I hope to continue doing just that! If you’re not a big fan of children’s books, make sure to mark this one for the children in your family. I’m sure they will love it! 

What was the best middle grade you’ve ever read? Leave your recommendations in the comments below!


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12 thoughts on “The Unadoptables by Hanna Tooke | All elements I love about middle-grade in one book!

  1. I’m with you. I always enjoy middle grade when I read it but never seem to read enough of it! And absolutely I love the way it focuses on friendship and adventure. There’s such a beautiful simplicity to middle grade, I don’t mean that in any disparaging way, but they just tend to have a carefree quality to them…or maybe that’s just me when I read them! Lovely review Alex. This sounds really great ☺️☺️💜💚

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Omg I’m SOLD!!! I totally agree that no book does close-knit friendships better than MG. It’s SO heartwarming and definitely one of my favourite things about MG. Not to mention all the whimsical writing and adventures 😍 I’ll be keeping my eye out for this one! Great review, Alex!

    Liked by 1 person

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