Reviews for Unforgotten Coat

Booklist Reviews 2011 September #1
With both humor and sorrow, this chapter book tells a contemporary refugee story in which illegal immigrants help a local kid find a sense of belonging. When Mongolian Chingis and his younger brother, Nergui, turn up in Julie's sixth-grade class in Bootle, near Liverpool, they ask her to be their guide in "learning themselves ordinary." They ask about the rules of football and the right buzzwords, and Chingis tells Julie about the exotic wonders of Genghis Khan's Xanadu and shows her, and the reader, amazing Polaroids of nomads in the desert. In her first-person narrative, Julie describes the moving friendship, and even while the brothers hide from authorities, they help Julie learn to see the strange and wonderful in her own home, especially after she discovers that their "exotic" pictures were taken right where she lives, in the nearby fields and alleyways. Inspired by the many photo images throughout the story, readers will see the riches in the smallest details--even schoolyard trash cans. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Spring
Brothers Chingis and Nergui suddenly appear in Julie's classroom. They appoint her their "Good Guide" and learn to blend in, all the while spinning tales of Mongolia and a demon that's trying to make Nergui disappear. Told from Julie's perceptive, compassionate perspective and accompanied by numerous photographs, the U.K.-set story is poetic, bittersweet, and a little bit mystical.

Kirkus Reviews 2011 August #1

Treading water in her last term of elementary school, Julie figures she's learned all there is to learn, when two Mongolian brothers in fur-lined coats (it's summer) arrive: Chingis and Nergui.

Chingis explains to their teacher that little Nergui's hat must stay on, like a hunting eagle's hood. Such casual references to wonders far from their Liverpool suburb, documented in the text with eerie Polaroid snapshots, enthrall the children, especially Julie. She's elated when Chingis appoints her the brothers' "good guide." Despite her title, Julie can't discover where they live; street-smart Chingis foils her attempts to follow them, taking a different route each day. Thwarted curiosity prompts her to research Mongolia online, succumbing to the mystery and fascination of far-off places and people. As her persistence pays off, she awakens to the fear the brothers carry. Funny, sad, haunting and original, Cottrell Boyce's story leaves important elements unexpressed. As with lace, these holes are part of the design, echoed in the unadorned photos: a path through a dark forest; wagon tracks across a field that meet the lowering sky; shadows on a yurt wall. To complete the narrative, readers must actively participate. They'll find myriad paths to follow—immigration, demons, social networking, the mystery of cultural difference and the nature of enchantment.

A tricky, magical delight. (author's note) (Fiction. 8-12) Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 August #4

Boyce follows Cosmic with a tight, powerful story--brimming with humor, mystery, and pathos--about illegal immigration and the price it exacts on children. Two Mongolian brothers, Chingis and Nergui, arrive at a British school wearing fur coats and refusing to follow the teacher's instructions that Nergui remove his hat that's low on his face: "When you need your eagle to be calm," Chingis says, "you cover its eyes with a hood. When you want the eagle to fly and kill, you take off the hood." The class is enthralled, and when Chingis singles our sixth-year Julie to be their "Good Guide," things that had previously fascinated her (makeup, boys) fall away as she bones up on Genghis Khan and helps the boys learn Liverpudlian slang and the rules of football--"learning themselves ordinary," she terms it. They tell her they are hiding from a demon, punctuating their tall tales with Polaroids, taken by Hunter and Heney (Boyce's filmmaker collaborators), which deepen the mystery. In an author's note Boyce explains his inspiration, making an already moving story even more so. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2011 November

Gr 5-7--It's the end of sixth grade, and all Julie can think about is makeup and boys. Things change when two oddly dressed brothers show up at school. Even though it's hot outside, they wear identical fur-lined coats and claim to be Mongolian nomads. Chingis is cheeky to the teacher, demanding in no uncertain terms that his younger brother, Nergui, stay in the class with him for protection. The boys single out Julie to be their Good Guide. She takes her title seriously-she shows them how to dress and act and researches Mongolian history to share with the class. She's hoping that all this helpfulness will translate into an invitation to their home-she is sure it is filled with exotic silks and samovars. As Julie gets to know the brothers, she discovers that their life isn't as romantic as she imagined. They are fearful and evasive, believing that a demon is trying to make them vanish. Nergui isn't even the younger boy's real name-it means "no one," and he uses it to confuse the demon. When the boys disappear from school, Julie decides to follow them, using the images in Chingis's photos to guide her to their whereabouts. This story stems from the author's encounter with a young deportee, a Mongolian girl. Although the novel deals with the serious subject of illegal immigration, Boyce's dialogue is warm and humorous, keeping the book engaging. Chingis's mysterious Polaroids, displayed throughout the book, make for an intriguing format. Julie narrates the story as an adult, looking back, but an unusual ending gives it a contemporary, touching twist.--Diane McCabe, Loyola Village Elementary School, Los Angeles

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