Treading water in her last term of elementary school, Julie figures she’s learned all there is to learn, when two Mongolian brothers in fur-lined coats (it’s summer) arrive: Chingis and Nergui.
Chingis explains to their teacher that little Nergui’s hat must stay on, like a hunting eagle’s hood. Such casual references to wonders far from their Liverpool suburb, documented in the text with eerie Polaroid snapshots, enthrall the children, especially Julie. She’s elated when Chingis appoints her the brothers’ “good guide.” Despite her title, Julie can’t discover where they live; street-smart Chingis foils her attempts to follow them, taking a different route each day. Thwarted curiosity prompts her to research Mongolia online, succumbing to the mystery and fascination of far-off places and people. As her persistence pays off, she awakens to the fear the brothers carry. Funny, sad, haunting and original, Cottrell Boyce’s story leaves important elements unexpressed. As with lace, these holes are part of the design, echoed in the unadorned photos: a path through a dark forest; wagon tracks across a field that meet the lowering sky; shadows on a yurt wall. 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. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)