Know how to calm an eagle, learn how to make an “ovoo”, throw demons off your trail… And along the way, return a coat to a long-lost friend.
From the roads of Bootle, England to the deserts and plains of Mongolia, this book takes you on a mission to return a coat that has been left in the cloakroom of a class and the memories of a sixth-grader.
The Unforgotten Coat begins from the point of view of Julie, who reminisces about her sixth grade after coming across a photograph of her and three other friends. Julie remembers the day that the class was introduced to the new kid, Chingis Tuul and his brother Nergui. It wasn’t his real name, but Chingis demanded everyone call his little brother so in order to “protect him from demons”.
The brothers wore furry hats and identical coats and were always seen together. The entire class thought that they are odd, but Julie is the only one curious enough to want to know more about them. This curiosity eventually lets Chingis take her into confidence and make her the brothers’ “Good Guide”.
Chingis keeps surprising Julie — and the reader — with his attempts to throw the demon off his brother’s trail. From baking a boy made out of dough to making an “ovoo”, Chingis keeps teasing our curiosity. This provides some of the humorous elements in the book.
Always carrying a Polaroid camera with him, Chingis would go around taking photographs and show Julie and the rest of the class pictures of wild flowers, fields, railway lines, horse skulls and other wonders from Mongolia. But is Chingis’ Mongolia as wondrous as he claims it to be? Later on, Chingis’ family is sent back to their own country because of complications in their immigration papers. But his coat gets left behind in the cloakroom. Will Chingis come back for his coat? Will Julie be able to find him and return it?
Illustrated with Polaroid photographs, the book is a visual treat as well. It is funny, simple, charming and an easy read. With pages resembling a notebook, it feels like you are going through the pages of your school notes. It takes you through a journey in search of a friend — to return the coat that everyone else seems to have forgotten.
THE UNFORGOTTEN COAT by Frank Cottrell Boyce, Pan Macmillan, Rs. 350