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

All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team
by Christina Soontornvat
Intermediate, Middle School    Candlewick    288 pp.    g
10/20    978-1-5362-0945-7    $24.99

An author of picture books, easy readers, and middle-grade novels, Soontornvat (A Wish in the Dark, rev. 5/20) here presents a compelling work of nonfiction. On June 23, 2018, in Mae Sai, Thailand, twelve members of a youth soccer team and their coach decided to explore a nearby cave after practice. After venturing several miles in, they found themselves trapped by floods caused by unseasonably early monsoon rains. As Thailand marshaled international resources, the world watched the drama unfold. The rescue — all thirteen survived — would be nothing short of miraculous. In lucid prose written in third-person-present tense for a heightened sense of immediacy, Soontornvat gives readers a journalistic account of the difficulty and complexity of the rescue effort. Using interviews and other primary sources, she keeps a tight focus on the unfolding story, with its inherent edge-of-your-seat, heart-in-your-throat drama, adroitly juggling a parade of characters, clearly laying out the technical and engineering challenges, and judiciously parsing out expository information in the occasional sidebar. The rescue effort brought out the best in humanity, and inspiring messages of teamwork, cooperation, sacrifice (the death of a Thai diver is covered in a chapter called “A Tragic Loss”), loyalty, faith, and hope abound in these pages. Liberally illustrated throughout with full-color illustrations and maps; an author’s note, source notes, a bibliography, and an index are appended. (See Marc Aronson’s Rising Water, rev. 5/19, for another account of the same events.)

From the September/October 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Jonathan Hunt
Jonathan Hunt is the coordinator of library media services at the San Diego County Office of Education.

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