From School Library Journal
Grade 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
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Gr. 9-12. Published originally in the United Kingdom, this unusual novel won the 2004 Branford Boase Award and was short-listed for the Nestle Children's Book Prize. Framed as an interview between a South American sports reporter and the world's best soccer goalkeeper, the now 30-year-old "El Gato" relates how he developed his skills, achieved great fame, and won the coveted World Cup. His story is one of poverty and isolation in a small logging community, of strong family ties in a beloved jungle being inexorably denuded, and of intense focus on the game of soccer. If a coming-of-age tale meeting an environmental message framed by sports narrative weren't enough, a mystical element is added, as El Gato describes his rigorous soccer training by a ghost in a magical clearing hewn from dense foliage. El Gato's remembrances do not consistently take the reader with him, and disparate elements don't always gel. Rich depictions of family and forest are marred by stilted, implausible dialog and choppy transitions between present and past. With its lengthy descriptions of the game, this may appeal most to soccer fans. Holly KoellingCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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