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June 5, 2010


Filed under: K — thebookreviews @ 7:37 pm
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Author: Mal Peet

Page Length: 225

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Paul Faustino begins his interview with the World Cup soccer goalkeeper, El Gato, hoping to learn the secrets of his techniques and skills he used in helping his team capture the championship. What he got, however, is the life story of El Gato that began in the rainforest where his father worked as a logger. 

As a child, El Gato was tall and clumsy and the other children made fun of him when he played soccer in the town square.  He sought refuge deep in the jungle, and came upon a cleared meadow with a soccer goal in it.  There, over the next two years, he visited the meadow regularly and took instruction from a ghostly creature he called “the keeper.” 

At the age of 15, El Gato had to quit school and join his father working in the logging camp.  At the close of the first week, he learned many of the men hung around for a “not so friendly” game of soccer.  When the goal for the Camp team was empty, El Gato took his place as the starting keeper. It was there that El Gato was discovered.  His skills and knowledge of goalkeeping were put to use, and he made a name for himself around the camp.

When a scout from a professional team came to watch, El Gato was offered a contract to play professionally.  So, at the age of 15 he left home and began training and playing soccer as a profession.  He played for several years, and missed winning the World Cup at the age of 26.  He came back four years later, and single handedly led his team to be the World Cup Champions.

Faustino questions El Gato’s sanity as he describes the mythical mentor who lives in the forest.  At the conclusion, Faustino is convinced that El Gato acquired his skills from the man described by the famous athlete whose spirit he reveres.

REVIEW: This book reminded me of the baseball story, Field of Dreams, in that ghostly players from the past speak to the main characters.  The story has a lot of descriptions of fast action soccer play as well as fantasy in the events that are in the forest.  Because the soccer play is such a major part of the book, I would suggest it for reading by those who know the game.

Both of my daughters played the position of goalkeeper when they played soccer, so I enjoyed reading the “Keeper’s” techniques of instruction, in addition to the play-by-play descriptions of the games.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Theme, Character, Sequence of Events, and Cause/Effect

RELATED BOOKS: Tangerine, Shots on Goal, Soccer Shots

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Field of Dreams (1989), Bend it Like Beckham (2002)


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner


1 Comment »

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