The Unadoptables by Hana Tooke

The Unadoptables

The Unadoptables by Hana Tooke
English | 2020 | Children/Young Adult | Fantasy | ePUB | 28.8 MB

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 1880, 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. And although their cruel matron might think they’re “unadoptable,” they know their individuality is what makes them special—and so determined to stay together.When a most sinister gentleman appears and threatens to tear them apart, the gang make a daring escape across the frozen canals of Amsterdam. But is their real home—and their real family—already closer than they realize?

The ground floor was the only part of the orphanage that didn’t look like a mere sneeze would demolish it. In the main foyer, the marble floor was polished to a shine, the walls were painted a charming shade of violet, and a tall grandfather clock ticked and tocked in the corner. A motley collection of children were arranging themselves in a line against one wall; younger ones at one end, older ones at the other. They were all frantically trying to make themselves presentable: rubbing at grease stains, tucking in shirts, adjusting petticoats, pulling up socks. But there was no disguising what they really were: scruffy, hungry, desperate orphans.

Sem and Fenna slipped into the line just as three small brown rats darted across the marble floor in different directions. A girl with a waistcoat over her blue cotton dress was scrubbing at a raven-haired boy’s fingers. She shot Milou a worried look.

“What took you so long?” Lotta asked, then noticed Milou’s dress and the cat puppet in her arms. “Never mind. Quick, help me get this charcoal off Egg’s hands.”

Milou took Egg’s other hand and began rubbing at it with the inside of her sleeve. The charcoal smeared, leaving his hands an interesting shade of gray.

“Gassbeek wanted another portrait,” Egg said, his voice full of worry as he peeled his hands from theirs and carefully adjusted the soot-stained shawl that hung around his neck. “I didn’t have time to wash.”

“Don’t worry,” Milou said. “It’s just—”

The prickling shiver started at the tips of her ears again. The sensation intensified, until it felt as if a thousand needles were pricking at her earlobes. Milou pulled Lotta by the arm and shoved her in line beside Sem. She had just positioned herself next to Lotta when a familiar sound echoed out from the hallway leading to the Forbidden Quarters.

Click. Clack. Click. Clack.

All twenty-eight children straightened as if pulled by invisible strings.

Click. Clack. Click. Clack.

Twenty-eight staccato breaths sucked in, in quick succession.

Click. Clack. Click. Clack.

Twenty-seven sets of wide eyes fixed firmly on the wall ahead. Milou peered through lowered lashes at the darkened hallway to her left.

Click. Clack. Click. Clack.

Matron Gassbeek’s boots emerged a moment before the rest of her; twin points of polished bloodred leather, with low, pointed heels that were just as sharp as the expression on the matron’s face when the rest of her appeared.

Every monster that Milou had made up for her bedtime stories was based in some way on Gassbeek: the brutal sneer of a gargoyle, the soulless eyes of a werewolf, the skin-itching screech of a banshee. If the matron hadn’t been so filled with hatred and menace, she would probably have looked like any other middle-aged woman, but her vileness had transformed her features into something monstrous.

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