Booklist (September 1, 2011 (Vol. 108, No. 1))
Grades 3-6. With both humor and sorrow, this chapter book tells a contemporary refugee story in which illegal immigrants help a local kid find a sense of belonging. When Mongolian Chingis and his younger brother, Nergui, turn up in Julie’s sixth-grade class in Bootle, near Liverpool, they ask her to be their guide in “learning themselves ordinary.” They ask about the rules of football and the right buzzwords, and Chingis tells Julie about the exotic wonders of Genghis Khan’s Xanadu and shows her, and the reader, amazing Polaroids of nomads in the desert. In her first-person narrative, Julie describes the moving friendship, and even while the brothers hide from authorities, they help Julie learn to see the strange and wonderful in her own home, especially after she discovers that their “exotic” pictures were taken right where she lives, in the nearby fields and alleyways. Inspired by the many photo images throughout the story, readers will see the riches in the smallest details—even schoolyard trash cans.