The Costa Book Awards 2012 : Children’s Book Award: Shortlist
Flip by Martyn Bedford (Walker Books)
The Unforgotten Coat by Frank Cottrell Boyce (Walker Books)
Small Change for Stuart by Lissa Evans (Doubleday)
Blood Red Road by Moira Young (Marion Lloyd Books) – WINNER
The Unforgotten Coat by Frank Cottrell Boyce
It was a normal last term of Year 6 at her school for Julie of Bootle – the last sports day at primary school, the leavers’ trip, the leavers’ photograph. And hoping upon hope that the boy you like would NOTICE YOU!
All pretty normal that is until Chingis and Negui, two brothers, arrive all the way from Mongolia. Stood there, staring through the railings. “The little one was wearing a furry hat and they had identical coats. Mad coats – long, like dressing-gowns, with fur inside. But any coat would have looked mad. The sun was beating down. The tarmac in the car park was melting. Everyone else was wearing T-shirts.”
Julie is at once intrigued and excited about the new arrivals at her school. Her eyes are opened to the landscape, the people, to life in Mongolia, when Chingis and Nergui appoint her as their “Good Guide” and show her the Polaroid photographs of life back home.
Julie’s eyes are also opened to the landscape of her own backyard, to Bootle, and to the houses, the flyover, the mountain of scrap metal towering over the Seaforth dock, the fields, the trees and sands leading all the way to the coast north of Liverpool. You see Chingis has been carrying round with him a Polaroid camera won on a tombola at the Refugee Project Summer Holiday Party in Bootle. And in the photographs he has been taking, Chingis has been creating alternative realities, a blurring of the boundaries between Mongolia and Bootle, Liverpool.
“Chingis shook the Polaroid dry and showed it to me. The funny thing was, it looked like Mongolia, as though he could turn bits of Liverpool into bits of Mongolia just by pointing his camera at them….so you didn’t have that camera when you were in Mongolia? So none of your photos is actually of Mongolia? Are you even from Mongolia? But I didn’t say any of that.”
Julie recollects warmly the friendships gained in that last term of primary school. And then its sudden and abrubt ending – their teacher, Mrs Spendlove, announcing in the first lesson one morning, that Chingis had phoned her in the middle of the night. He had wanted to say goodbye. It was complicated. Something to do with not having the right papers. And that was that.
The Unforgotten Coat is very imaginatively and cleverly put together – the style of a journal – by its writer, the photographers, Carl Hunter and Clare Heney and the designers at Walker Books. It asks to be picked up.
Frank Cottrell Boyce wrote The Unforgotten Coat to support The Reader Organisation - a pioneering charity with an aim to bring about a Reading Revolution. Its primary mission is to make reading and literature accessible TO ALL and it does this through Get into Reading groups, Read to Lead training, Our Read campaign, Community Theatre and Reader-in-Residence projects in NHS Trusts, care homes, prisons, schools and libraries. A VERY worthwhile cause.
Follow-up activities to do with The Unforgotten Coat
- Explore Mongolia. Open an atlas, find where Mongolia lies on our our planet, which countries does it border with, what are its main geographical features, its climate, its natural resources? What are its main customs, its religion, its language/s?
- Think about the issues of immigration. What drives people, families, to leave their homes, their homelands? What is the pull from the new country (economic)? What is the push from their own country (again, economic, poverty, persecution, war)? Consider the effects of immigration upon the new, receiving country – cultural diversity (new languages, new sounds, new music, new artforms, new foods); pressures on housing, schools, jobs.
- The Bluecoat - a creative hub of four galleries located in the heart of Liverpool – has put together a fantastic teachers’ resource pack to support the reading of The Unforgotten Coat. It can be found here.