Peet, Mal

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Peet, Mal

(Malcolm Peet)


Born in Norfolk, England; married Elspeth Graham (a writer); children: Charlie, Lauren, Tom. Education: University of Warwick, B.A. (English and American studies), M.A.


Home—Exmouth, England. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Walker Books, 87 Vauxhall Walk, London SE11 5HJ, England.


Author, illustrator, and cartoonist. Formerly worked as a teacher; worked variously in a hospital mortuary, as a plumber and builder, and on a road crew. Freelance writer, beginning c. 1986;

Awards, Honors

American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults designation, Nestlé Smarties Bronze Award, and Branford Boase Award, all 2004, all for Keeper; Carnegie Medal, 2005, for Tamar.



Keeper, Walker Books (London, England), 2003, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2005.

Tamar, Walker (London, England), 2005.

Author's works have been translated into German, Greek, and French.


A Floating World, illustrated by Tudor Humphries, Ragged Bears (Andover, England), 1998.

Cloud Tea Monkeys, illustrated by Alan Marks, Ragged Bears (Sherborne, England), 1999.


(Illustrator) Elspeth Graham, Scrub-a-dub, Collins Educational (London, England), 1995.

(With wife, Elspeth Graham; self-illustrated) Never Sell a Hen on a Wet Day, Collins Educational (London, England), 1996.

Wicked, Collins Educational (London, England), 1996.

(With Elspeth Graham; self-illustrated) What's Cooking, Collins Educational (London, England), 1996.

(With Elspeth Graham; self-illustrated) Spending a Penny, Collins Educational (London, England), 1996.

Keep Your Hamster Happy, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1999.

(With Elspeth Graham and Michaela Morgan) Read Aloud and Talk about Duck Green School Stories (readers), Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1999.

(Compiler with Elspeth Graham) Creatures, Kings, and Scary Things, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2000.

The Giants, illustrated by Ian Newsham, Oxford University Press (Oxford England), 2000.

A Bird in the Bush, illustrated by Ian Newsham, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2000.

(With Elspeth Graham) Wolves, Eyes, and Stormy Skies, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2000.

(With Elspeth Graham) Spiders, Chips, and Rocket Ships, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2000.

The Wolf Whistle, illustrated by Ian Newsham, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2000.

(Compiler with Elspeth Graham) Moonlight, Seas, and Chocolate Trees, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2000.

The Spooky Eyes, illustrated by Ian Newsham, Oxford University Pres (Oxford, England), 2001.

The Troll's Hat, illustrated by Ian Newsham, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2001.

Author, with Elspeth Graham, of numerous other educational titles for British publishers, as well as academic titles.


An author, illustrator, and active soccer enthusiast, Mal Peet worked in educational publishing in his native England, co-authoring and sometimes illustrating primary-grade readers for several educational publishers. With dozens of titles to his credit, Peet remained relatively unknown until 2004, when his first young-adult novel, Keeper, won two significant literary awards: the Nestlé Smarties Prize Bronze award and the Bradford Boase award. A second novel, Tamar, was awarded the prestigious Carnegie Medal in 2005.

Keeper is told in an interview format, and relates how a renowned South American soccer goalie known as El Gato rose to prominence in his sport. At first interviewing journalist Paul Faustino focuses on El Gato's current newsworthiness: the thirty-year-old goaltender has just won the World Cup for his team. However, the discussion soon turns to the athlete's past, and El Gato shares the story of his unusual rise to success. Growing up in a logging town in a South American rainforest, the poverty-stricken boy plays soccer in a secret clearing during every spare moment when he was not working, afraid to test his skills against his more accomplished friends. He learns the rudiments of the game from a mysterious mentor, only referred to as "the Keeper," who appears, ghostlike, to the young El Gato and trains the boy rigorously for two years. At the age of fifteen he begins working as a trainee machinist at the logging camp. There he starts playing in rough Saturday afternoon games. His boss recognizes his outstanding skills and contacts a professional club; as a result the boy's life is transformed.

Praising The Keeper as a "haunting tale," Kliatt reviewer Paula Rohrlick added that while the novel "is full of sports action," Peet also explores the athlete's "anguished loyalty to his family and to the Keeper." In School Library Journal Cathryn Childs deemed the book "unusual and compelling," adding that Peet's unusual novel "mesmeriz[es] … readers with a supernatural mystery in a tale about relationships, loneliness, and believing in oneself." Peet's "stirring adventure … defies expectations," according to a Kirkus Reviews writer, the critic adding that the award-winning novel is "both lyrical and gripping."

In Tamar Peet takes readers back in time to the end of World War II, as two Dutch soldiers parachute secretly into the Netherlands, avoiding the occupying Nazi troops in order to establish resistance forces. From this point their stories are interwoven with those of their friends and wives, and ultimately their children and grandchildren, in a novel that London Guardian reviewer Jan Mark praised as "as fine a piece of storytelling as you are likely to read" due to the "quality of the writing." As Peet explained on the Walker Books Web site, the novel was inspired by a conversation with a friend whose father had been an undercover radio operator for the Dutch resistance. This man still possessed the codes, printed on silk, that he had used to transmit his Morse messages to London. This set Peet to thinking about how secret events might cast shadows onto future generations. Tamar is "a story about secrets, lies, false identities, coded messages," Peet noted. "It's also, I hope, a plea for forgiveness. I'm a father myself now."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, August, 2005, Holly Koelling, review of Keeper, p. 2016.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, September, 2005, Maggie Hommel, review of Keeper, p. 35.

Guardian (London, England), October 15, 2005, Jan Mark, review of Tamar.

Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2005, review of Keeper, p. 856.

Kliatt, September, 2005, Paula Rohrlick, review of Keeper, p. 12.

Library Media Connection, January, 2006, Ann M.G. Gray, review of Keeper, p. 72.

School Librarian, spring, 2004, Dennis Hamley, review of Keeper, p. 44.

School Library Journal, September, 2005, Kathryn Childs, review of Keeper, p. 210.


Achuka Web site, (May 5, 2006), interview with Peet.

Literacy Trust Web site, (May 5, 2006), "Reading Champions: Mal Peet."

Walker Books Web site, (May 5, 2006), "Mal Peet."

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