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by Mal Peet

Published by U.S. edition: Candlewick Press, 2005
225 pages
ISBN: 0763627496

Ages 12-16

"El Gato” is possibly the best soccer goalie the world has ever seen. In his retirement he has agreed to be interviewed by prizewinning sportswriter Paul Faustino. Holding the actual World Cup in his hands while he talks, El Gato begins with his childhood in a remote village in a South American jungle, where he was awkward and uncoordinated. He played soccer—badly—when not working in the nearby logging camp. But one day in the jungle, he meets the mystical Keeper, who insists El Gato belongs on a soccer field. The Keeper teaches El Gato the ins and outs of goaltending. El Gato becomes so good he is recruited away from the local team at the lumberyard and eventually sent to a prestigious academy, a vital stepping stone on the path to his illustrious career. Occasional comments from Faustino give voice to the doubts that such mystical intervention could possibly be real, but El Gato’s absolute conviction of the Keeper’s influence in his life adds a tantalizing thread of fantasy to an otherwise realistic narrative. Mal Peet’s fascinating novel also weaves a strong environmental message about the devastation caused by logging in developing countries into the action-packed sports story. CCBC Category: Fiction for Young Adults.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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