Holy Gouda, what a spectacular story! From the very first page of this delicious debut I was immediately mesmerised by this tale of friendship, belonging and daring adventure.
Set amongst the icy canals and sleek velvet thread of 19th century Amsterdam, in the utterly dreadful Little Tulip Orphanage, reside five curiously unique 'unadoptables': Egbert the artist, Lotta the inventor, Sem the tailor, Fenna the baker and Milou, their imaginative and fierce ringleader.
Despite the long years and cruel ways of the orphanage's child-hating matron, Elinora Gassbeek, Egg, Lotta, Sem, Fenna and Milou have found the family they deserve in each other. That is until a sinister sea captain threatens to tear them apart. Determined to stay together and fight for their freedom, the gang make a daring moonlit escape to the countryside in the hopes of untangling the mysterious clues about Milou's parents. Shadowed by lifelike puppets, curious clock makers and pirate ships, will the gang find the home and freedom they so long for before it's too late.
Hana Tooke's storytelling skills are royally breathtaking! From the whimsical Dutch setting to the hair-raising mysteries, to the thrilling gothic intrigue and the courageous acts of love, Tooke has spun a shimmering web of warmth, wit and wonder.
Whilst predominantly Milou's story of finding her parents, this book would be nothing without the unity and unbreakable bond of the five children, who all endearlingly highlighting the importance of loyalty, teamwork and celebrating our differences, however unique they may be.
I'd also LOVE to see spin of short stories behind each of the children's abandonments! Why was Lotta left snuggled inside a tin toolbox, and Egbert in a coal bucket? Why was little Fenna wedged between cheese sandwiches and almond cakes in a forgotten picnic basket? And who could desert poor Sem in nothing but a wheat sack for clothes? Tooke has absolutely mastered an open-ended narrative of mystery and suspense, and I'm already desperate to escape back into this dazzling world of dastardly villains, curious clock makers, and spectacular puppeteers! And the epilogue hints that this might already be in the cards.
A star for Egbert, a star for Lotta, a star for Sem, a star for Fenna, and a star for Milou! 5 glorious stars for a magical book to absolutely fall in love with! Perfect for fans of Lemony Snicket.