Review by Booklist Review
Despite 12 bleak years at an orphanage in Amsterdam, Milou is confident her parents will eventually return for her. In the meantime, her only solace is in four orphan friends, all possessing unusual talents and skills. When a shady stranger arrives to adopt the ragtag bunch, a suspicious Milou convinces her friends to escape before they're whisked away to certain doom. A puzzling clue in her original belongings may lead them to her family--and, hopefully, freedom--but when their travels point them to an abandoned windmill and a derelict puppet theater, it's clear their search will be anything but straightforward. Tooke's absorbing tale evokes the nineteenth-century Netherlands, including a smattering of Dutch vocabulary, and it's a pleasure to explore the quirky and occasionally foreboding settings alongside the curious crew of orphans. Flashes of suspense and peril are balanced by lighthearted moments, with the bonds between the children creating a coziness even in the grimmest of circumstances. Always breezy, never dreary, this is a lovely testament to the power of family, in whatever form that may take.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
In 1880, five babies were abandoned at Amsterdam's Little Tulip Orphanage without adhering to the institution's orderly rules. Named by the cruel Matron Gassbeek, their monikers are as unique as they are: 12-fingered Lotta, a master of mathematics; gentle Egg, a budding cartographer; timid Fenna, a mute culinary expert; and protective Sem, a sewing whiz. The fifth, Milou, whose ear-prickling sense warns her of impending danger, has written a book of theories about why her parents abandoned her in a small coffin. Twelve years later, these inseparable children, all considered unadoptable, are suddenly courted by a merchant who wants them to join him aboard his ship. Instead, the five escape to an abandoned windmill once owned by Milou's family; however, even their lifelike puppet guardian and Milou's sixth sense may not protect them from the dangers of the outside world. Despite employing a well-trod conceit--orphans frantic to escape a miserable life creating a found family--this story stands out for its enchanted setting, daring escapades, and an arch, vividly wrought third-person narrative by debut author Tooke. Ages 8--12. (July)
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Review by School Library Journal Review
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.--Sara-Jo Lupo Sites, George F. Johnson Memorial Lib., Endicott, NY
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Review by Kirkus Book Review
Targeted in a wicked scheme, five resourceful kids flee their orphanage in 1892 Amsterdam. Each longs to be adopted, but would-be parents reject them when they see the kids' atypical attributes: Lotta's 12 fingers, Egg's East Asian ancestry (other characters default to white), Fenna's muteness, clumsy Sem's ears, and Milou's wild ferocity. That is, until sinister Meneer Rotman sees their remarkable gifts--but Milou's special sense warns her that Rotman's evil. Indeed: They discover he intends to buy them as slave labor to crew his ship. Milou, who keeps a Book of Theories regarding why her birth family hasn't claimed her, persuades them to escape to the puppet-making Poppenmaker family she's sure she belongs to. Loyal if not convinced, the others join her. Lotta's math and Egg's cartographic acumen help them follow coordinates on Milou's mysterious timepiece to the Poppenmakers' windmill home and puppet theater, now abandoned. Thanks to Lotta's technical ingenuity, Egg's artistry, Fenna's culinary prowess, and Sem's needlework--assisted by clockmaker and dike warden Edda Finkelstein--it's almost home. Then Milou forgets the other orphans have family longings, and the orphans discover Rotman has not forgotten them….While the vivid, Dickensian setting--grim orphanage, icy mists, and shadowy dockyards--and quaint clockwork creations and life-size puppets spin a web of Gothic creepiness, the bonds among this found family of lively orphans add plenty of warmth and light. Unfolding with the clarity of a fairy tale, this sure-footed debut casts a delightfully spooky spell. (Fantasy. 8-12) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.