Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Keeper by Mal Peet

When Paul Faustino of LA NACION flips on his tape recorder for an exclusive interview with El Gato — the phenomenal goalkeeper who single-handedly brought his team the World Cup — the seasoned reporter quickly learns that this will be no ordinary story. Instead, the legendary El Gato narrates a spellbinding tale that begins in the South American rainforest, where a ghostly but very real mentor, the Keeper, emerges to teach a poor, gawky boy the most thrilling secrets of the game.


Genre: sports

Rating: 5/5

Challenge: European Reading

Part sports drama, part coming of age, part ghost story, Keeper hits everything right. El Gato tells the story of how he escaped life in the jungles, but at the same time, he is aware he owes that background for making him what he is. There's his complicated relationship with his father, a simple man who doesn't understand the greater destiny surrounding his son and who eventually dies in a tragic way that is both pathetic and somehow understandable in his struggle against the jungle. Peet describes the technicality of football in such a way that it is both understandable and thrilling. We know from the very beginning that El Gato won the World Cup, but how he got there is still exciting. Peet doesn't get bogged down in every detail of El Gato's career and only focuses on the pivotal moments.

But the beauty of the story is the mysterious Keeper. It's no mystery he's otherworldly from the start, but just what he is isn't revealed until the end in a scene that will give you chills. He becomes a father figure to El Gato even though his father is a good man. He's a harsh taskmaster, but that's because he realizes that El Gato is the only one that can ultimately save him. Is the Keeper a ghost? Part of the jungle? Maybe a little of both.

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