"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Nonfiction review: All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys' Soccer Team


-If you like real-life adventure stories,  All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys' Soccer Team by Christina Soontornvat is for you.

-If you watched the news about the thirteen people trapped in a cave and think you remember the details of their rescue, this book is for you since it will fill in all the details you missed.

-If you are a middle grade student and you could just scream if your teacher assigns another fiction book where you can't relate at all the characters, this book is for you.

-If you have ever wondered about the dangers of cave spelunking (UK=potholing) or the differences between cave diving and open water diving, this book is for you. In fact, if you've never wondered about either of those, you might have wondered how one goes about rescuing people from caves, so this book is still for you.

-If you like to read award-winning books, this one is for you. It recently won a 2021 Newbery Honor, a Robert Siebert Information Book Honor, a YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction finalist, and an Obis Pictus honor for nonfiction from the National Council of Teachers. AND TODAY IT WON THE CYBILS AWARD FOR MIDDLE SCHOOL NONFICTION where I was one of the judges.

-If you were once in middle school or junior high, know someone who is, are a high school student or adult who likes reading exciting narratives, this book is for you, too.

“The term page-turner gets tossed around a lot, but All Thirteen is the real deal. Even if you think you know this story, you won’t be able to stop reading” (Steve Sheinkin, another author of middle grade nonfiction books.)

On June 23, 2018, twelve members of the Wild Boars soccer team in Thailand and their coach decided to explore a nearby cave near their home. The team members liked to do things together off the pitch and the coach encouraged doing things that would enhance fitness. The boys rode their bicycles to the mouth of the cave, kicked off their shoes and entered the cave barefoot. After moving along the trail and entering several different caverns the boys turned to retrace their steps and found themselves trapped by flooding water. Seventeen days later with involvement from hundreds of experts from around the world, all thirteen people are rescued. 

As the world sits vigil, people begin to wonder: how long can a group of ordinary kids survive in complete darkness, with no food or clean water? Luckily, the Wild Boars are a very extraordinary "ordinary" group. Combining firsthand interviews of rescue workers with in-depth science and details of the region’s culture and religion, author Christina Soontornvat—who was visiting family in Northern Thailand when the Wild Boars went missing—masterfully shows how both the complex engineering operation above ground and the mental struggles of the thirteen young people below proved critical in the life-or-death mission. Meticulously researched and generously illustrated with photographs, this page-turner includes an author’s note describing her experience meeting the team, detailed source notes, and a bibliography to fully immerse readers in the most ambitious cave rescue in history.---The Publisher

 What I liked about the book:

  • Readers not only learn about the team members and the rescue efforts, they also learn about Thai culture,  the Buddhist religion, life-saving techniques, oxygen levels and the ability to think and process information, caves and water, etc. These 'asides' do not detract from the thrilling story about the rescue but add to the completeness of it. I appreciated all the new information I learned.
  • This book is about the most unputdownable book I've read in years. I read it at break-neck speed not because I didn't know how things turned out but because I couldn't believe it worked out.
  • The story doesn't end at the rescue. We learn what happens to the boys and the coach after they are freed. This seems to be part of their culture, but the boys all seemed so humble and grateful, not cocky and proud at all.
  • Of all the books I have read for as a judge for the Cybils Award Nonfiction category this year, I can imagine kids actually reading and liking this book. Many of our other finalists are excellent nonfiction selections but I have a hard time imagining students lining up to read them.

What I didn't like about the book:

  • Nothing. I liked it all.

Source:  Print edition checked out from the public library.



  1. Sheinkin is really good at YA/middle grade nonfiction and I didn't realize he wrote this one. Great choice for a CYBILS winner!

    1. I better correct the way I wrote that paragraph. Sheinkin didn't write the book, he just commented on it.


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