Summary and book reviews of The Unforgotten Coat by Frank Cottrell Boyce

The Unforgotten Coat

By Frank Cottrell Boyce

The Unforgotten Coat
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  • Hardcover: Sep 2011,
    112 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Tamara Smith

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Book Summary

When two Mongolian brothers inexplicably appear one morning in Julie's Year Six class, no one, least of all Julie, knows what to make of them. But then Chingis, the older of the two, proclaims that Julie is to be their "Good Guide" a nomadic tradition that makes her responsible for welcoming the brothers to their new home. Now Julie must somehow navigate them through soccer, school uniforms, and British slang, all while trying to win Shocky's attention and an invitation to her friend Mimi's house. Often laugh-out-loud funny, this moving and simply told novella tugs at the heart - a unique story of immigration both fierce in its telling and magical in its characters. (Ages 8-12)

Excerpt
The Unforgotten Coat

Year Six. We had been at school for six years and until that moment I thought I had probably learned all I would ever to learn. I knew how to work out the volume of a cube. I knew who painted the "Sunflowers". I could tell you the history of St. Lucia. I knew about lines of the Tudors, and lines of symmetry and the importance of eating five portions of fruit a day. But in all that time, I had never had a single lesson in eagle-calming. I had never ever heard the subject mentioned. I'd had no idea that a person might need eagle-calming skills.

And in that moment, I felt my own ignorance spread suddenly out behind me like a pair of wings, and every single thing I didn't know was a feather on those wings. I could feel them tugging at the air, restless to be airborne.

I wanted to talk to the new boy. I wanted to talk about eagles. But Mimi seemed to regard the whole Chingis incident as a minor interruption in the ongoing global cosmetics conversation. Only the ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. How old do you think Julie is when she tells this story? What leads you to this conclusion?


  2. Why is Chingis insistent about his little brother's staying with him? What does he say his reason is? Do you think that is the real reason? Why or why not?


  3. Why do you think Chingis is so defiant about everything Mrs. Spendlove asks him to do? What effect does his defiance have on her and the students?


  4. How does Julie feel when she hears Chingis say his brother is an eagle?


  5. What does Chingis want Julie to do for him and his brother? Do all new students need this help? How does your school welcome new students? Do you think this is helpful?


  6. Where does Julie find Chingis's coat? How long has it been since she last ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

Frank Cottrell Boyce doesn't exaggerate any part of this story - the boys are not overly sentimentalized; their connection with Julie is not too thickly drawn; their mystery is not melodramatic. The story is sparse in words but not sparse in feeling and meaning... The Unforgotten Coat is a quick and powerful read. Young middle graders can easily read it, but it is suitable for upper middle graders, young adults, and adults too.   (Reviewed by Tamara Smith).

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Media Reviews
Wall Street Journal

A funny and affecting book... this story from the author of Millions may make readers regard foreign students at their schools with new appreciation.

Publishers Weekly

In an author's note Boyce explains his inspiration, making an already moving story even more so. Ages 8 - 12.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. 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.

Bookpage

This is a funny, sad, and heartwarming story of the ways in which children come together and make their own communities.

The Guardian (UK)

[A] funny, original and moving tale... Only a hundred pages in length, it is a joy to read.

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