KLIATT - Paula Rohrlick
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, September 2005: This soccer novel is told in the form of an interview of El Gato ("the cat"), a legendary goalkeeper who has just won the World Cup for his team. El Gato tells how he grew up in a poor logging camp in the South American rain forest, where he says he was taught to play the game in a clearing in the jungle by a ghostly mentor he refers to only as the Keeper. At 15, El Gato must leave school to help support his family, and he reluctantly joins his father at the logging camp. There the men play soccer for recreation (and bet on the outcome), and El Gato's incredible skills are quickly recognized. A scout appears, and his rise is meteoric, but he never forgets his family and his mentor. This haunting tale is full of sports action, but it also deals with El Gato's anguished loyalty to his family and to the Keeper. An unusual and compelling sports story by a first-time novelist, this has already won awards in Britain. An ALA Best Book for YAs.
This soccer novel is told in the form of an interview of El Gato ("the cat"), a legendary goalkeeper who has just won the World Cup for his team. El Gato tells how he grew up in a poor logging camp in the South American rain forest, where he says he was taught to play the game in a clearing in the jungle by a ghostly mentor he refers to only as the Keeper. At 15, El Gato must leave school to help support his family, and he reluctantly joins his father at the logging camp. There the men play soccer for recreation (and bet on the outcome), and El Gato's incredible skills are quickly recognized. A scout appears, and his rise is meteoric, but he never forgets his family and his mentor. This haunting tale is full of sports action, but it also deals with El Gato's anguished loyalty to his family and to the Keeper. An unusual and compelling sports story by a first-time novelist, this has already won awards in Britain. KLIATT Codes: JS*Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2003, Candlewick, 240p., Ages 12 to 18.
This book, part sports fiction, part fantasy and part fictional biography has an interesting, if specific, draw to it. It begins with the interview of "El Gato," a soccer goalie who has recently won the World Cup. The interviewer, Paul Faustino, expects a run-of-the-mill interview with a world-class soccer player, but gets something much more. El Gato begins to tell Paul of his childhood in the jungles of South America, surprising the interviewer with his lack of interest in soccer as a young boy. The uncoordinated young boy is useless on his village's soccer team and finds himself spending his time in the jungle instead of playing with the village boys. It is here, in a mysterious jungle clearing that he meets the Keeper, a ghost-like apparition who begins to train El Gato to be one of the world's greatest soccer goalkeepers. This novel has mixed appeal for both fans of soccer and fans of the supernatural. At times some of the dialogue feels a bit formal or stiff, but for the most part, this is a wonderful story and an easy recommendation for some reluctant male readers. 2003, Candlewick Press, Ages 10 to 15.
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-When acclaimed South American journalist Paul Faustino begins his interview with World Cup soccer star El Gato, he expects to be recording the thoughts of a goalkeeper at the height of his career. He never envisioned hearing about a young, lonely boy growing up in the middle of a rain forest, who wandered upon a mysterious soccer field and an apparition that appeared to him daily and trained him to become the greatest goalkeeper ever known. Is El Gato mad? Is he suffering from hallucinations due to the stress of the game? Is there some truth to be discovered in his fantastic tale? Only at the conclusion of the interview and the resolution of who the Keeper really is and what he is waiting for will readers even think of putting down this fascinating book. Peet achieves his expressed desire "to write an entirely new kind of soccer story," not only including the experience of play, but also mesmerizing readers with a supernatural mystery in a tale about relationships, loneliness, and believing in oneself. This is a well-written, fast-paced sports story that addresses far more than just the sport itself. Fans of Chris Crutcher's sports-themed novels will want to pick up this selection by a new and talented writer.-Kathryn Childs, Morris Mid/High School, OK Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
This stirring adventure-a soccer story? a ghost story?-defies expectations. Soccer reporter Paul Faustino is thrilled to have an exclusive interview with brilliant goalkeeper El Gato, whose team just won the World Cup. El Gato offers the incredulous reporter an unbelievable tale. As a child, the goalie explains, he was terrible at sports in a soccer-mad town, so he retreated to the jungle his village found frightening but he found beautiful. In the jungle's darkest tangles, he encountered a mysterious goalkeeper who drilled him mercilessly for two years. When El Gato left his secret training to become a logger like his father (against his mother's wishes, who wanted her son to go to college and become a scientist), he discovered he'd become a world-class goalie. El Gato's mystical revelations are saturated with reverence for the vanishing jungle, and his too-perfect soccer ability is tempered by the confusion of a grown man who wants a life his adored parents would not have chosen. Both lyrical and gripping. (Fiction. 12-16)
From the Publisher
"This book has something for every reader, not least those who revel in excellent writing."—THE GUARDIAN — Quote
"Written with skill, humanity, and a vibrant passion for its subject, KEEPER is irresistible. . . . This is true enchantment."—TES TEACHER (London) — Quote
"Even if you hate soccer, read this superbly written book and be captivated by it."—SCHOOL LIBRARIAN (U.K.) — Quote
Read an Excerpt
By Mal Peet
Copyright © 2005
All right reserved.
You probably don't think this is remarkable. But if you knew the jungle, you would find it hard to believe me, because an open space in the jungle is not possible. Something, anything, will occupy any space where it can find light to live and grow. Yet here was this clearing, and it was covered in grass. Yes, grass. Short grass. Turf. Impossible. Absolutely impossible. I walked out onto this grass very slowly, far more alarmed by this clearing than by any plant or creature I had met in the jungle itself. . . .
I was in a space that was about one hundred yards long and maybe half as wide, and I had walked out of the forest at a point about halfway down its length. I looked at first to my left and saw how the clearing ended in a dense, shadowy wall of trees. Then I looked to my right. And froze.
Standing there, with its back to the trees, was a goal. A soccer goal. Two uprights and a crossbar. With a net. A net fixed up like the old-fashioned ones, pulled back and tied to two poles behind the goal. My brain stood still in my head. I could hear the thumping of my blood. I must have looked like an idiot, my eyes mad and staring, my mouth hanging open. Eventually I found the nerve to take a few steps toward this goal, this quite impossible goal. The woodwork was a silvery gray, and the grain of the wood was open and rough. Weathered, like the timber of old boats left for years on the beach. It shoneslightly. The net had the same color, like cobwebs, and thin green plant tendrils grew up the two poles that supported it.
It seemed to take an age, my whole life, to walk into that goalmouth. When I got there, I put out my hands and held the net. It was sound and strong, despite its great age. I was completely baffled and stood there, my fingers in the mesh of the net and my back to the clearing, trying, and failing, to make sense of all this.
And then my fingers began to tremble, and then my legs, because I was suddenly certain that I was not alone.
KEEPER by Mal Peet. Copyright (c) 2005 by Mal Peet. Published by Candlewick Press, Inc., Cambridge, MA.
Excerpted from Keeper
by Mal Peet
Copyright © 2005 by Mal Peet.
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