The Unforgotten Coat ISBN: 9781406333855
Published by Walker & Company, 2011
When Chingis and his little brother Nergui appear at school for the first time in year 6, Julie and her friends don't know what to make of them, particularly when Chingis refuses to let Nergui go to his proper classroom. He is also cheeky to the teacher, and as he and Nergui are wearing long, fur coats on a hot summers day, the children are more and more amazed. Julie is interested, however, and becomes the boys 'Good Guide' at their request. They are from Mongolia, and Julie spends time on the Internet finding out all she can about their country. But the boys actions are peculiar, and she finds it difficult to understand why. It becomes clear as time goes on that they are afraid - of what, she doesn't know. She tries to follow them home, but they always manage to evade her, but one day they appear at her house, and her mum gets the demanding, full -on Chingis treatment, which, luckily, she quite enjoys. After he makes a dough boy to leave on the step so the 'demon' that Nergui has seen will take it and believe it is Nergui, the dough boy is indeed stolen (this is Bootle) and the boys believe their charm has worked. Chingis has a Polaroid camera with which he is constantly taking pictures, and Julie believes that the ones she see are of the plains in Mongolia, but she discovers he has been taking them in the country side around Bootle. The boys enliven the school in many ways, and the children are enhanced by their presence and the 'differentness' they bring into their lives, but one day they simply disappear, and the teacher explains that they were in the country illegally and had been whisked back to Mongolia. Julie feels responsible, and many years later, decides to google Chingis; through Facebook she gets an answer and a picture of him and his brother with a thank you for having been their 'good guide'. This is moving, short (99 pages) and full of photographs, and it was inspired by an experience Frank Cottrell Boyce had in the very first class he went to speak to after having written 'Millions'. A special story!