Mal Peet, Carnegie Medal-winning author of children’s, young adult novels, dead at 67

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LONDON — Author Mal Peet, the Carnegie Medal-winning British writer of books for children and young adults, has died at 67.

Diagnosed with cancer several months ago, the writer of “Keeper,” “Tamar” and other books died March 2, according to his agent, Peter Cox, who said the world has lost “an author of exceptional genius.”

John Green, author of “The Fault in Our Stars,” tweeted that Peet was “one of the greatest YA [young adult] writers and a man I greatly admired (even when we disagreed!).”

Peet won the 2005 Carnegie Medal for “Tamar,” a historical novel set during World War II. The British literary award honors children’s and young adult fiction.

Peet”s first novel — which he started at age 52 and finished at 55 — was “Keeper” (2003). A young adult novel  set in an imaginary South American countryand sprinkled with magical realism, it tells the story of “El Gato,” a world champion soccer goalkeeper, through a long interview with a sports journalist. The scrawny kid-turned champion tells of being taught the intricacies of the game as a boy by “The Keeper” — a ghostly figure.

“Keeper,” Mal Peet’s first full-length novel for teens.

“Keeper,” Mal Peet’s first full-length novel for teens.

“I wrote ‘Keeper’ with the modest intention of inventing a new kind of ‘soccer story’ by ignoring all the ‘rules’ of the genre,” Peet wrote of his first novel. “I couldn’t think of any good reason why sports novels mightn’t travel into the realms of magic and mystery that other kinds of fiction visit. Or not deal with serious issues. Or not dare to be ‘literary’. Or be written strictly for the boys.

“So ‘Keeper’ is about death and the supernatural, family relationships — particularly father-son relationships — and about self-discovery, ambition, rain forest conservation . . . and, yes, OK, football.”

Peet recognized how forutnate he was with “Keeper.”

“I struck very lucky with my first novel, ‘Keeper,’ ” he wrote. “It was a rather unprepossessing-looking little paperback; despite my pleadings, [Publisher] Walker put a photo of a goalie on the cover. But it was spotted by the great Jan Mark, who gave it a wonderful review in The Guardian and started the ball rolling. In 2003, it won the Branford Boase Award and a Nestle Children’s Book Award. It’s since been translated into several languages, only one of which (American) I understand.”

Peet’s other books included two more featuring the same fictional reporter featured in “Keeper,” Paul Faustino: “The Penalty” (2006) and “Exposure” (2008).

With his second, wife Elspeth Graham, he also co-authored more than 100 short educational children’s books, mostly for Oxford University Press. It was she who suggested he try to write a full-length novel.

Last year, his first novel for adults, “The Murdstone Trilogy,” was published.

Peet is survived by his wife, sons Tom and Charlie, daughter Lauren and two grandchildren.

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