The Unadoptables

Five children left at the Little Tulip Orphanage, Amsterdam – all in strange circumstances. Fast forward 12 years and the same five children are still there – seemingly unadoptable. That is, until a strange and sinister man comes to visit; to take them away.

In ‘the Unadoptables’, Hana Tooke’s characters are wonderful individuals, each with their own unique qualities. These talents come to serve them well as they flee from Matron Gassbeek and Meneer Rotman.

Even though Rotman offers them a home on his ship together, Milou feels there is something foreboding about his manner and the deal he strikes with Matron. Thus, she convinces the other four –  Sem, Lotta, Egg, and Fenna – that they need to escape from the orphanage into the icy streets of Amsterdam and beyond.

Amsterdam, its canals and the surrounding countryside are features of the tale as the children flee. The city is dark and threatening as they hide from Rotman, much like the grim orphanage they are glad to leave behind. The canals, though icy and challenging, aid their escape. And the countryside of polders and windmills may offer a safe haven.

Using some of their individual skills and the strong belief of Milou that they can find her parents, they venture towards a better life. But can five orphans really track down a notional home, with very limited clues, then survive the suspicion of local residents? Their combined resourcefulness will be tested and their skills will become crucial.

Readers of Neil Gaiman, Lemony Snicket and Jessica Townsend (Nevermoor) will love this.

# What would life be like as an orphan? 

## Do you enjoy reading stories set in other countries?

Disclaimer: I have a personal love of the Netherlands (as a tourist) and can relate to so many aspects of the setting – canals, windmills, polders and of course, stroopwaffels! I was also lucky to receive a review copy ahead of publication now in July.

Through their eyes…

shahanaShahana is the first of several books in a series Through My Eyes, with a focus on children living in conflict zones around the globe.

Life for Shanana is difficult; even more so with the death of her father, mother and older brother – victims of militant fire in the borderlands of Kashmir. With her younger brother, Tanveer, in her grandfather’s mountain village home, she ekes out a living daily by sewing and haggling for their basic necessities.

As if life isn’t hard enough already, when Shahana and her brother come across a half dead boy being attacked by wild dogs, they rescue him. Not only is he another mouth to feed, his Indian family background is in conflict with their heritage in a zone of great political conflict. Add to that the problems of a 13 year old Muslim girl living with an unrelated male in her house, and you begin to understand the complexities in the life of Shahana and her younger brother.

In this tale, Rosanne Hawke cleverly reveals ways in which life unfolds for many young girls like Shahana; when they are orphaned, or their families face the challenges of poverty in a land of war and strife. Each day is a test of survival. Each day also brings the challenges of testing friendships and relationships – determining who one can trust, and which people you should rely on.

Shahana is a strong character, bound however by the traditions of her sex. Many of her decisions are taken in the light of this, as we see her modify her choices because she has to ‘take her place’ and be wary of overstepping her role. However, her fate is to challenge the idea of being submissive – to avoid suffering at the hands of others just because she is orphaned and female.

There is lot to be learned about Shahana’s Kashmiri culture, and the story is sprinkled with the language and traditions of her family and those around her.

Tragically, there is also truth in the fictional lives of the people who populate Shahana’s world:

  • Zahid, the child soldier
  • Mr Nadid, the opportunistic carpet-maker
  • Amaan, the Indian militant
  • Rabia, the half-widow – mother of Ayesha, Shahana’s best friend

In many ways, these are the critical elements of the tale – revealing as they do a world apart from our own western experience. A world in which a 13 year old girl has to feed and care for her younger brother, and keep him from the clutches of a greedy businessman. A world in which unknown people are feared, and known people change according to their unfortunate circumstances. A world where a young girl has great responsibilities, beyond her tender years. A world all too common in many parts of the world today.

In this clip, Rosanne Hawke talks about how and why she wrote Shahana, and what she hopes readers take from the story:

Shahana is the first book to be published in this series; with others by renowned authors (including zones of ongoing conflict such as Somalia, Afghanistan and Mexico) to be published soon. For future details see:

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the series will be donated to UNICEF.