The Unforgotten Coat by Frank Cottrell Boyce

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The Unforgotten Coat by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Gorgeous and slightly surreal story about friendship, difference and enrichment. And a more-than-welcome antidote to anti-immigration rhetoric.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 112 Date: September 2011
Publisher: Walker
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1406333859

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Longlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2013

Julie lives in Bootle and is in her last year of primary school. She's like every little girl, hoping to be invited to her friends' houses for tea and just beginning to think about boys. She's never thought much about the world outside Bootle but the arrival of Chingis and his younger brother Nergui is about to change all that. The two boys are nomads from Mongolia and they arrive at school on a hot summer's day, wearing traditional Mongolian furry coats and hats. Taking a shine to Julie, Chingis appoints her his Good Guide to the UK. And in return he tells her stories of horsemen and eagles and shows her Polaroid photos of a land far away.

But the two boys are afraid. They believe a demon is chasing them and so they are secretive, taking a different route home from school each day and baking offerings to deflect the evil spirit.

There's a lot more to this short but important tale but I've probably told you too much already. Suffice it to say that Julie is in for a shock, the kind of shock she'll remember for the rest of her life.

The Unforgotten Coat is funny and original and slightly surreal. It speaks about nostalgia, friendship and the enrichment of lives by other lives, and it explores the deeply divisive issue of immigration without getting on a soapbox but equally without sitting on the fence. And it's beautifully-written. I can't imagine a single child or adult to whom I wouldn't recommend it.

Much as I loved this gorgeous little story, I am going to have a moan. I bought it on Kindle. Don't you do the same. The photos taken by Chingis are an important part of both the story and the physical book. They're real Poloroid photos, taken by Carl Hunter and Clare Heney, and they need to be seen properly. But no real effort has been taken to make them Kindle-friendly - they're blurred and fuzzy - and I lost some of the story's impact because of it. There are also blank pages - fine in a print book, but confusing on a Kindle as you think something's gone wrong, and these should have been taken out.

This format is the future, you publisher guys, even for children's books, and even for children's books that rely on illustrations. I think you should have gotten with the program by now.

Don't let this put you off The Unforgotten Coat, though. It's fantastic. Just don't buy it on Kindle.

Oh, and before I forget - Frank based this story on a real-life visit to a school in Bootle and wrote it for The Reader Organisation, a fantastic charity promoting literature as a vital life skill. You should go and check them out.

Other super stories about young people new to the UK include Tall Story by Candy Gourlay and Angel Cake by Cathy Cassidy.

Buy The Unforgotten Coat by Frank Cottrell Boyce at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Unforgotten Coat by Frank Cottrell Boyce at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Unforgotten Coat by Frank Cottrell Boyce at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Unforgotten Coat by Frank Cottrell Boyce at Amazon.com.


Booklists.jpg The Unforgotten Coat by Frank Cottrell Boyce is in the Costa Prize 2011.
Booklists.jpg The Unforgotten Coat by Frank Cottrell Boyce is in the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize 2012.

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