Julie’s new classmates, Chingis and Nergui, have a lot of stories to tell. Some are interesting, like the ones about their home in Mongolia — complete with Polaroid pictures! Some are strange, like the reason Nergui needs to keep his hat on in class. And some are downright scary. Is Nergui really being chased by a demon? Julie, the boys’ guide to life in Bootle, spends the most time with Chingis and Nergui, but even she can’t quite sort out the line between truth and fiction in their stories. Following the boys home one night reveals some of the answers, but new questions arise when their whole family disappears the same night. A final twist, courtesy of the now-adult Julie, provides the explanation for the book’s title.
The Unforgotten Coat offers a portrait of immigration — specifically illegal immigration — through the eyes of children. Julie’s host-child voice, pleased to welcome but openly curious, creates a familiar frame for the more complex perspectives of the two boys, struggling to comprehend the relationship between the old home and the new, and the threats associated with each, even as they interpret that relationship for their classmates. The surprising source of their photographs of home adds an intriguing layer to the story’s mystery, and might well inspire a bit of experimenting on the part of readers. I’ll let you discover that secret for yourself!
Find out about The Reader Organisation, which The Unforgotten Coat was originally written to support, and a bit about the background of the story.
Also, check out this article on Frank Cottrell Boyce’s Perfect Weekend, just because it’s so lovely.