The Unforgotten Coat
Frank Cottrell Boyce explains that ‘The Unforgotten Coat‘ was inspired by his visit to a Year 6 Bootle primary school class, where he was introduced to a Mongolian refugee, a source of pride to her classmates. Her story, the camaraderie, her acclimatisation despite a distance of custom, language, traditions and time, inspired him, as, unfortunately, did events that unfolded after his visit.
Somehow, Frank Cottrell Boyce captures the voice of Julie, a pre-teen girl in the wasteland of a Year 6 summer, as she and her community struggle to understand the fears and experiences of Chingis, newly arrived from Mongolia. ‘When you need your eagle to be calm, what do you do?’ They come to appreciate his vastly different cultural history and beliefs, while at the same time immersing him in the culture and expectations of Merseyside life, including fish fingers, and the rules of football.
This is subtle story is beautifully woven, rather like Chingis’ coat, deft and thoughtful. The themes and message are evident but not hammered at us. Rather as with Julie, Chingis, and Nergui (his little hat wearing brother) will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading this wonderful book.