“Winner of the 2004 Brandford Boase Award”


Branford Boase Award 2004 – winner

Smarties Book Prize 2004 – Bronze award


Chicago Public Library Best Books for Children and Teens

ALA Best Books for Young Adults

Junior Library Guild Selection

Texas Lone Star Reading List

AWARDS and HONOURS (Germany)

Deutscher Jungendliteraturpreis – shortlist


‘Physical,spiritual – Arthurian, even – this is true enchantment.”

Jan Mark

‘This book has something for every reader, not least those who revel in excellent writing.’


“An unusual novel by Mal Peet, Keeper, will fill a gap in the market for many readers.”

“You do not need to be a football fan to enjoy the mystery and celebration encompassed in this story.”

The Bookseller

“Written with skill, humanity and a vibrant passion for its subject, the book is irresistible on two counts: the absolute conviction of the football journalism and the mysticism of the scenes where Gato meets his mentor and coach, a man cheated by the death of his own dream, who cannot rest until he sees the dream fulfilled. Physical, spiritual – Arthurian, even _ this is true enchantment.”


‘If you could dodge the blockbusters thundering overhead this was a great year for discovering fine, original fiction; rather like truffle-hunting under an artillery barrage. Mal Peet took the football story into a new league with Keeper replacing the wish-fulfilment of most sporting fiction with rich mythology wedded to absolute realism so that each element showed the other to advantage. A modest paperback, it is probably the year’s most surprising read in terms of promise and delivery.’


“This novel should do for children’s football fiction what Nick Hornby did for the adult genre.”

“It’s a fascinating, incredible and believable story and highly original. The simplicity of the story is a huge strength, the considered, reflective prose an absolute delight. The football action is gripping, exotic, thoughtful and literary.”


“The best football novel for children ever. Without a doubt. Turning this genre on its head, Peet’s plot is wholly original. Two men sit at a table in a large South American city. One man is a football journalist, the other the goalkeeper of the team that has just won the World Cup. On the table between them is the cup itself, gleaming. The Keeper, El Gato, tells his ghostly, surreal story about how he learnt to play. The football is great, the story fascinating and the ending spine-tingling. Once more – the best football novel for children – ever.”


“A novel which must finally give the lie to the old canard that good writing and football stories cannot go together. This is a tremendous book, profoundly moving, dizzyingly conceived.’

‘I have always known that football, despite its present grimy face, is an almost perfect metaphor for life. Mal Peet’s novel shows it in the loyalty, doggedness, the flowering of the soul granted by total devotion to a forbidding form of professionalism, the struggle of cultures, the essential nobility which, obscured though it may now be, it is always there. Even if you hate football, read this superbly written book and be captivated by it.”

School Librarian

“This is a wonderful, imaginative story, using football to explore morality”

Daily Mail


‘This stirring adventure—a soccer story? a ghost story?—defies expectations.’

‘Both lyrical and gripping.’

Kirkus  (starred review) *

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.”

School Library Journal

“Despite the South American locale, the regional details are generic; the focus, however, isn’t setting but soccer as a universal force, and its magical elements lands it somewhere between Field of Dreams and Karate Kid, with the ghostly sports purgatory and redemption aspects of the former and wise-master elements of the latter. With soccer’s rising prominence and popularity in the U.S., readers scrambling for soccer stories will be begging for this captivating tale with plenty of play-by-play.”

The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books


‘I must admit I did not anticipate enjoying this book, several unfortunate forays into somewhat formulaic football novels in my youth having engendered a slight cynicism towards the genre. I have never been so pleased to be so wrong.’

‘A ghost story and sporting novel hybrid may initially seem an ambitious and improbable mixture, but Peet carries it off impeccably. Each page unfolds completely naturally, the dialogue falling onto the inner ear as if the reader were illicitly privy to a conversation at an adjacent table and I became rapidly oblivious to the fact that I was reading. The chapters are very short, making the text easily digestible and on the pitch the main character’s feelings are so strong and vibrant, so passionate, that in places they burst from the pages like fireworks.

Quite simply told, Keeper is a hugely original and enjoyable work of fiction and it would be a shame if it were missed if mistaken for ‘just another soccer novel’,’


The top 30: critic’s choice

‘Young footballers – and non-footballers alike – will revel in this inspiring and superbly written story of El Gato, the world’s greatest goalkeeper. As footballing stories go, this one, it must be said, is top of the league.’

The Irish Times


‘Of course, it will look like a smart publisher has turned this title out in time for a certain tournament in Germany. But sports writing for young readers is not nearly as easy as it looks.

Not even the most lurid prose can match the visual stimulation the readership receives, day and night, from other media. Writers have to do things TV can’t. Often this means substituting character for hype.

Keeper is in a special league.’

The Sydney Morning Herald

‘It’s a brilliant book about soccer but there are some primitive forces at work here too – even if you’re not into football you’re going to be hooked.’