Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Unforgotten Coat

The Unforgotten Coat
by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Candlewick, 2011. 42 pgs. Fiction

Two Mongolian boys turn Julie's sixth grade class on its ear with their tales of demons, eagles, the endless steppes and innumerable horses of Mongolia, and their nomadic life. For reasons which escape her, they choose Julie as their "good guide," to help them navigate life in Liverpool. Chingis, the older boy, devotes himself to keeping his younger brother Nergui safe from the demon who has followed them from Mongolia. A dough boy baked and left on the front steps of Julie's house tricks the demon for awhile. Changing clothes, and performing a clockwise circling of a heap of totemic objects, stay the threat again, but eventually the boys do disappear and the demon turns out to be British Immigration. Cottrell Boyce's bittersweet story has a sad ending and a happy one. Both will make you cry, and perhaps rethink our relentless efforts to keep ourselves apart from people not exactly like us. (The odd typeface in which this book is printed drove me to the book on CD, which was a singular delight, performed by Sarah Coomes.)

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