The Unadoptables

Viking. Jul. 2020. 384p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780593116937.
Gr 4-7–Five orphans dropped off at the Little Tulip Orphanage within months of each other in 1880 remain there 12 years later. Growing up under the thumb of the duplicitous matron Gassbeek, who makes Miss Hannigan look like Mother Teresa, the orphans have banded together to create a tight-knit family. The leader of their group, the smart, creative and daring Milou, encourages them to mount an escape when an advantageous situation presents itself. Each orphan possesses a special skill which comes in handy when needs arise. Lotta, born with six fingers on each hand, is mechanically inclined and technically savvy. Egg is an artist and cartographer, Sem is a genius with a sewing needle, and Fenna, although mute, speaks the language of animals fluently. Each orphan has a clue or two about their birth parents, but no one is as eager to find their mother and father as Milou; that becomes the group’s first order of business. The plot thickens with the arrival of a dastardly villain, a nosy yet helpful neighbor, and complications of the children’s own doing. The Amsterdam setting lends a theatrical feel and perilous situations keep the pages turning. Milou finds some unexpected answers, but the book leaves many questions about the others should there be a sequel.
VERDICT These resourceful orphans will quickly captivate readers who enjoy mysterious adventure stories. The concept of what makes a family is examined with surprising results. Recommended.

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