The Un-Forgotten Coat by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Walker Books, 2011.
Recommended for ages: 10+. To me The Un-Forgotten Coat is a whimsical tale and its characters seem intangible and enigmatic. While this may make the story feel a little less realistic or identifiable it also adds to the overall sense of wonderment, especially when reading the true story the book was based on. Full of hope and open-mindedness, the main character, a Year 6 girl from the small English town of Bootle, yearns to get a glimpse into the lives and homes of others. The reader quickly gets drawn into her fascination with new ways of thinking and looking at things as she becomes friends with two immigrant children from Mongolia. What she doesn't expect is that the new arrivals to the school do not have the mysterious and exotic belongings and life that she imagines. For a brief moment the three children guide themselves into a imaginative world where they all feel like they belong before plummeting back to reality. This book is incredibly appealing aesthetically due to its resemblance to an old, yellowing notepad and the addition of the striking polaroid photographs which are an integral element of the story. Despite this I think the sheer beauty and sugary sweetness of this book somewhat masks the very real refugee story lying inside it. In addition the book is written from the perspective of the main character, now an adult, reminiscing about this childhood event and while I really enjoyed reading it I cannot decide whether children will feel any sense of connectedness with the characters or the story. This is a very short story; however I think it will have greater appeal for older children and would be a great classroom read aloud text for stimulating discussions around refugees and immigration issues.