Mal Peet

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Mal Peet
Born5 October 1947
North Walsham, Norfolk, England
Died2 March 2015(2015-03-02) (aged 67)[1]
OccupationWriter, illustrator
GenreYoung adult historical fiction; children's picture books
Notable works
Notable awardsCarnegie Medal
Guardian Prize

Malcolm Charles Peet (5 October 1947 – 2 March 2015)[2] was an English author and illustrator best known for young adult fiction. He has won several honours including the Brandford Boase, the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Prize, British children's literature awards that recognise "year's best" books. Three of his novels feature football and the fictional South American sports journalist Paul Faustino. The Murdstone Trilogy (2014) is his first work aimed at adult readers.


Peet grew up in a council estate in North Walsham, Norfolk, the eldest of three siblings, in a family that he describes as "emotionally impaired".[3] He attended the Paston School[4] and spent one year at the University of Warwick studying American and British literature.[5][6] He worked at a variety of jobs, including writer for educational publishers, before deciding to start a novel at age 52.[7] He lived in Exmouth, Devon with his wife, Elspeth Graham and their son Tom. He also had two children, Lauren and Charlie, from a previous relationship, and there are now four grandchildren - Grace, Ezra, Nella and Frieda.

Cloud Tea Monkeys, a children's picture book written by Peet and his wife, is set in the Himalayas and based on a Chinese folktale. Kirkus Reviews observed, in review of the 2010 edition illustrated by Juan Wijngaard, "The deftly spun, emotionally resonant fairy-tale story ... begs to be read aloud. ... Unlike cloud tea, an accessible treasure."[8]


Walker Books published Peet's first five novels, with his latest work, The Murdstone Trilogy, being published by David Fickling Books. For his first novel, Keeper (2003), Peet won the Branford Boase Award, which recognizes "the most promising book for seven year-olds and upwards by a first time novelist."[9][10] For his second novel, Tamar (2005), he won the annual Carnegie Medal from the British librarians, recognising the year's best children's book published in the U.K.[11][12] The Penalty (2007) was shortlisted for the Booktrust Teenage Prize and Peet won the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize for Exposure (2008), a modern re-telling of Shakespeare's Othello.[13] The once-in-a-lifetime award by The Guardian newspaper is judged by a panel of British children's writers.[14] Keeper, The Penalty, and Exposure are the Faustino books. Tamar is a World War II novel and family mystery set jointly in 1945 Nazi-occupied the Netherlands and 1995 England.

Life: An Exploded Diagram (2011), a semi-autobiographical novel, was his last book for young readers.[9][15]

Susan Tranter wrote that "Mal Peet's work is notable for its refusal to submit to categories – the constraints which label what a book should be about, and who it should appeal to. His books to date prove that successful literature for young readers doesn't have to be didactic, or have overtly youthful themes, or even centre on young characters. It is the quality of the writing which is, ultimately, the most important thing." Peet says he is skeptical of books written specifically for teenagers, saying they are prone to condescension.[6]

Peet himself stated, "I see genres as generating sets of rules or conventions that are only interesting when they are subverted or used to disguise the author’s intent. My own way of doing this is to attempt a sort of whimsical alchemy, whereby seemingly incompatible genres are brought into unlikely partnerships."[9]

Three of Peet's books feature the fictional South American sports journalist Paul Faustino (and football). Peet's debut novel Keeper, which is primarily a world-champion goalkeeper's life story in the course of an interview. Keeper, The Penalty, and Exposure all feature Faustino and South American football players. When he won the 2009 Guardian Award for the Othello-based Exposure, he told the sponsoring newspaper he had felt that 'football books for children were "pretty much hey"'. Also, "I used to play all the time. I would play football when it was light and read when it was dark. Now I get to play football vicariously."[7]

Peet described his creative occupation thus: "I come up here in the morning to a pleasant room in the roof of my house and imagine I'm a black South American football superstar, then I have to imagine I'm a female pop celebrity who's pregnant. It's a completely mad way to spend your time. If I did it in public I would be sectioned. Writing is a form of licensed madness."[7] The Murdstone Trilogy (2014) represented a departure for Peet, being aimed at adult readers.


Peet died on 2 March 2015 from cancer, aged 67.[16]

Selected works[edit]

  • Cloud Tea Monkeys (Ragged Bears, 1999), written by Elspeth Graham and Mal Peet, illustrated by Alan Marks —"based on a Chinese folktale"[8] ISBN 9781406333862 (pbk)
  • Keeper (Walker, 2003)ISBN 9781406303933 (pbk)
  • Tamar (Walker, 2005) ISBN 1406303941
  • The Penalty (Walker, 2006) ISBN 9781844280995 (pbk)
  • Exposure (Walker, 2008) ISBN 9781406306491 (pbk) based on the Shakespeare play "Othello".
  • Cloud Tea Monkeys (Walker, 2010; New edition) —by Graham and Peet, illus. Juan Wijngaard
  • Life: An Exploded Diagram (Walker, 2011)ISBN 9781844281008 (pbk)
  • The Murdstone Trilogy: an adult "nobble" (David Fickling Books, 2014 ISBN 9781910200155 (hbk)
  • Beck (Walker Books, 2016, ISBN 978-1-4063-3112-7), completed by Meg Rosoff
  • "The Family Tree" (2018, Great Britain, Barrington Stoke Ltd, Edinburgh) illustrations by Emma Shoard. ISBN 978-1-78112-805-3.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Mal Peet, author". The Daily Telegraph. 9 March 2015. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  2. ^ England and Wales, Death Index, 2007-2015
  3. ^ Mal Peet. Walker Books; retrieved 5 July 2011. Archived 5 July 2011.
  4. ^ Goodnow, Cecilia. "A powerful late start for young-adult book author Mal Peet". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. 2 March 2007; retrieved 5 July 2011. Archived 5 July 2011.
  5. ^ Martin Chilton, Mal Peet, writer, dies aged 67, The Telegraph, 3 Mar 2015.
  6. ^ a b Mal Peet at British Council: Literature; retrieved 5 July 2011.
  7. ^ a b c "Mal Peet wins Guardian children's fiction prize: A version of Othello which casts the Moor of Venice as a South American football star wins Mal Peet the 2009 Guardian children's fiction prize". Alison Flood., 8 October 2009. Retrieved 16 June 2012.
  8. ^ a b "CLOUD TEA MONKEYS by Mal Peet ...". Kirkus Reviews, 15 February 2010; retrieved 3 March 2015.
  9. ^ a b c Julia Eccleshare, Mal Peet obituary, The Guardian, 5 March 2015.
  10. ^ (Home). The Branford Boase Award and Henrietta Branford Writing Competition ( (BBA and HBWC). Retrieved 2014-07-01.
  11. ^ a b (Carnegie Winner 2005) Archived 17 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Living Archive: Celebrating the Carnegie and Greenaway Winners. CILIP. Retrieved 8 August 2012.
  12. ^ a b "Press releases for the 2005 Awards, presented in 2006" Archived 6 January 2013 at the Wayback Machine. Press Desk. CILIP. Retrieved 24 November 2012.
  13. ^ a b Guardian children's fiction prize 2009 (top page). The Guardian. Retrieved 8 August 2012.
  14. ^ "Guardian children's fiction prize relaunched: Entry details and list of past winners". 12 March 2001. Retrieved 8 August 2012.
  15. ^ For reviews, see:
  16. ^ Chilton, Martin (3 March 2015). "Mal Peet, writer, dies aged 67".

External links[edit]