Keeper by Mal Peet
There is an initiative by the National Literacy Trust http://www.literacytrust.org.uk called “Reading the Game” which, in association with football clubs and high-profile footballers, aims to promote literacy acknowledging that many children will read about football when they will read nothing else (see link below)
Football clubs across the nation are working with schools and libraries to unite young fans with books through the medium of the beautiful game. Unfortunately though many football stories are badly written, as dull as ditchwater, and frankly off-putting.
However there are two children’s authors who have written about the ‘glorious game’ and who have raised the standard to an impressive and challenging level; Mal Peet and Tom Palmer. Sadly, last year Mal Peet died but his legacy continues through his novels. He was passionate about football and wrote that he ‘used to play all the time’ and that he ‘would play football when it was light and read when it was dark’. Tom Palmer is very much alive and kicking, (literally) his way around the school circuit inspiring one and all with his books and football presentations. His author visits are targeted specifically at reluctant readers many of whom are boys.
Mal Peet wrote of his first novel ‘Keeper’ that it was an attempt to write magically about football since football commentators often use the word ‘magic’, Keeper is marketed as a young adult novel but could easily be read aloud to any year 5 or year 6 pupil.
The story, the first of three football stories featuring the South American, football journalist, Paul Faustino, is an interview between the man known as ‘El Gato’, (the Cat), indisputably the world’s greatest goalkeeper, who has brought home the World Cup for his country and Faustino. The trophy is there in the office with them. Faustino, knowing that El Gato grew up in a logging settlement in the rain forest, asks El Gato to recount his childhood expecting to hear a conventional account of a country boy made good,where matches are watched on the community’s one television set and replayed in the dirt by the local children.
But when El Gato starts talking the story takes on a very different and unconventional account.
Gato relates that one day, whilst exploring in the forest, he comes to a clearing, spacious, turfed, with a goal at one end. A figure emerges from the shadows; it is the Keeper. He is a man who ought to be dead but cannot die because he is as yet unfulfilled. He has been waiting for the boy and sets about turning him from a talentless player into the hero he must become. Gato’s subsequent career and rise to the top are in no way supernatural, but the figure of the Keeper continues to haunt him; their business is unfinished until the very end of the story.
The novel is full of the sweaty tension and excitement, as well as the agony and the ecstasy, that comes with the very best of football games. It culminates in a terrific penalty shoot-out. This book has something for every reader, not least those who revel in excellent writing. It is definitely not boring! Suitable for 11+ although you could read it to a year 6 class.
A book trailer can be shown in the link below:
Written by Dianne Rawlings