Chingis and Nergui appear in Bootle, England. In this tiny town where no one new ever comes and nothing happens, these two Mongolian immigrants appear, wearing huge, strange coats and acting and speaking in ways that are totally unfamiliar to the other children at the school. Chingis, the elder, gives the teacher orders and refuses to let his little brother out of his sight. He has a Polaroid camera, and pictures of Mongolia so bizarre that it seems like another planet all together. Julie, our narrator, is enchanted by them; she learns everything she can about Mongolia and gives a report on it to the class, and the boys name her their Good Guide. And Chingis and Nergui insist that there's a demon after Nergui, a demon who makes things vanish, wants to make Nergui vanish, and Julie is swept up in it, culminating in a strange, quiet afternoon when the English landscape becomes unfamiliar and Mongolia appears before their very eyes.
So, I didn't really dig this book. It has text, in the form of first-person narration, written from a grown, present day Julie looking back on those strange months with the boys. And it has photos, the Polaroids that of Chingis's, each printed on it's own page, interspersed throughout the book. And I'll tell you, maybe it's me, because Miss Peregrins Home for Unusual Children felt the same way, but it seems forced. Like Mr. Cottrell Boyce found some pictures and built a story around them. And I know that's not how it happened, because the extremely touching author's note at the end makes it clear that the story came to him first, but it's apparently not a format that works for me. I will say, I loved the author's note, and I found it rounded out the book, made it more personal and real, and much, much more touching.