I knew I would love this little book as soon as I saw the photo on the first page: four middle school-aged children in their uniforms, posing for the camera with goofy grins on their faces. Boyce actually tells this touching story of compassion and loyalty through a series of snapshots presumably taken on a beat up Polaroid. Julie finds the photos in the pocket of an old coat, left hanging on a hook at her former school. The coat belonged to Chingis. Chingis and his younger brother, Nergui, had immigrated to England from Mongolia when Julie was still in school. They chose her to be their “good guide” in their new environment.
Julie took seriously her responsibilities of introducing Chingis and Nergui to western culture. She learned that there is more to life than boys and make-up and avidly absorbed everything Chingis and Nergui told her about Mongolia. For her part, Julie explained the ins and outs of middle school life to her “wards”. She taught them to play soccer, how to dress–to simply blend in with the crowd. Being a pre-teen often means “fitting in”, so it never occurred to Julie that the boys had ulterior motives for looking like everybody else.
This quick read is sure to pull at the heartstrings of readers of all ages. Have no fear though, the ending will bring a smile to your face.
Jennifer Minicus is a mother and teacher currently living in Ridgewood, NJ.