The Un-forgotten Coat by Frank Cottrell Boyce

cover image

Walker Books, 2011.
Highly recommended for 9 to 13 year olds and anyone who loves a wonderful story.
There are books that are so special that even after you have finished reading them they stay with you and become a permanent part of your thoughts. For me, The Un-forgotten Coat is one of those books.
Written by Frank Cottrell Boyce, who won my admiration earlier with Millions, The Un-forgotten Coat is an intriguing book for several reasons.
The cover and contents show it is not an ordinary book. It has the look of a personal journal written on lined paper. The book contains several photographs and I am old enough to instantly recognise that they came from a Polaroid camera.
The story is told in the first person by Julie, who is recounting a particular experience at school. The time two Mongolian immigrants, Chingis and 'Negrui', joined her class in Bootle, Liverpool.
Their unusual dress and behaviour instantly captivates Julie and they nominate her their 'Good Guide', to help them learn about everyday life.
Chingis tells Julie about Mongolia and he has a collection of Polaroid photos to enhance his fascinating stories. But Chingis and Negrui worry constantly about a demon that is chasing them and some of their bizarre behaviour is to keep them out of the demon's way. This puzzles Julie but it is not until the end of the book that the identity of the demon becomes clear.
Frank Cottrell Boyce explained that the idea for this story came from a real experience he had while on an author visit to a school in Bootle and involved a young Mongolian girl Misheel, who 'lit up the room'. Her story and that of the fictional Chingis and Negrui is emotional, touches your heart and can bring you to tears in the last few pages. Yet there are times when you laugh out loud at some of the conversations and scenarios.
I was also intrigued by the publication of this book by The Reader Organisation and the work they do to bring people and books together. Have a look at the website  for more information and for a link to teacher resources for the book.
Jane Moore