Mal Peet was both an author and illustrator of children's books. About writing, he said, "Like many people (I suspect) I had no real interest in children's literature until I had children of my own. It'll sound a bit evangelical, I suppose, but I truly believe that there are few things more important, useful, and protective than sharing stories with your children. After their bath, heaped into a big, deep chair, doing the voices, discussing the pictures, softening your voice as the rhythm of their breathing deepens... You start to understand why certain books work and others don't."
His first novel for young adults, Keeper, is an enthralling story of a poor and gawky kid who mysteriously becomes the world's greatest goalkeeper - a seamless blend of magical realism and exhilarating soccer action. For his fiction debut, Mal Peet won the 2004 Branford Boase Award and the Bronze Nestlé Smarties Book Award. Keeper was also selected as an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults.
Tamar, his second book for young adults, is a riveting and multi-layered novel that traces the story of two men caught up in secret operations in World War II. It looks at the impact that war has on those involved and on succeeding generations. Guilt and its ramifications lie at the heart of this beautifully written and serious novel that skillfully interweaves past and present.
"I belong to a generation whose fathers were soldiers, sailors, or airmen during the Second World War," says Mal Peet. "Some of these men were willing to talk about their experiences, some were not. My own father wasn't. (Or perhaps I didn't want to listen.) A friend of mine had a father whose wartime experiences were actually secret. He worked underground for the British secret services in Nazi-occupied Holland. He still had his 'silks,' the sheets of code used for his radio transmissions. These scraps of fabric were my starting point for Tamar. It's a story about secrets, lies, false identities, coded messages. It's also, I hope, a plea for forgiveness. I'm a father myself now."
Mal Peet was a writer of exceptional talent who established himself as a strong and distinctive voice in young adult fiction. The Penalty, his third novel for young adults and the follow up novel to Keeper, was released in the USA in August 2007. His third novel about world-weary football commentator Paul Faustino, Exposure, published in 2008. He also published Life: An Exploded Diagram (2011) and The Murdstone Trilogy (2014).
Up until his death in March 2015, Mal Peet lived in Devon, England. His death was mourned by many readers and writers. Meg Rosoff, a friend and fellow writer said: "Nobody wrote like Mal. His humour was leavened with blackness, his gimlet eye with kindness, his substantial talent with modesty."
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Mal Peet's Carnegie Medal Acceptance Speech
Tamar is a historical novel. It is also, at a certain level, about history. A
fifteen-year-old girl discovers that her life has been shaped by events that occurred fifty years ago, in a past
of which she is only dimly aware, and that those events were, in turn, dictated by earlier ones.
She realizes, in other words, that as well as being an individual she is part of a human
continuum. This is hardly a profound or difficult concept, but it worries me that it is in danger of being
lost. I sense a widespread disconnection from history, that people - younger people in
particular - have little idea about how they "got here."
Disconnection or alienation from the past has political consequences. A clear example is the popularity of Margaret Thatcher's mutilation of the trade unions in the 1980s. Many of those who supported her in this seemed to have forgotten or not known that they owed the social benefits they enjoyed - health, education, social security - to the trade union movement. Now I do not think that there is a single young person of my acquaintance who has any knowledge of the social history of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I have the ...
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