In her nonfiction debut, Soontornvat (Simon at the Art Museum) presents a well-researched, comprehensive look at the 2018 rescue of the Wild Boars juvenile soccer team from Thailand’s flooded Tham Luang Nang Non cave. Full-color photographs and spotlighted sections introduce the 12 tight-knit players and assistant coach, the Thai officials, the rescue divers, and other volunteers who stayed for the nine days it took to safely recover all 13 trapped members. Relayed in the present tense in a documentary-style tone, the 31 short chapters move along at a riveting pace, effectively conveying emotion and sensory details and thoroughly investing the reader in the outcome. Maps and other relevant information, including how “A Cave Is Born,” “Rules to Dive By,” and “Thailand’s Stateless People,” provide more depth and background, while insight into Thailand’s culture and climate helps illustrate the serious challenges overcome by the internationally diverse group in order to accomplish the seemingly impossible rescue. Soontornvat delivers humanizing coverage of a harrowing event, attempting to decenter Western media’s lens with great success. Back matter includes an author’s note and a bibliography. Ages 8–12. (Oct.)
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, award-winning author of Bomb and Undefeated
“All Thirteen is one of the best middle-grade nonfiction books that I have ever read. Even though I knew how this story was going to end, I found myself captivated from beginning to end. Christina Soontornvat did a marvelous job bringing this inspiring rescue to young readers.”
—Colby Sharp, cofounder of Nerdy Book Club
“A nonfiction marvel.”
—Minh Lê, award-winning author of Drawn Together
Soontornvat selects details and measures her pacing with the practiced hand of a master storyteller, and while everything is supported by meticulous research, the prose never suffers from information density; rather, every aside—whether on hypothermia, ketamine, or Navy SEAL training—adds tension through understanding. Readers who already know the outcome will nonetheless be enthralled by this singular tale that captures the importance of STEM education, the beauty of Thailand, and the best of humanity—collaboration, innovation, sacrifice, family, and love.
—Booklist (starred review)
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 Horn Book (starred review)
An in-depth account of a harrowing real-life mission that succeeds against all odds...Masterful storytelling fleshes out the complex human emotions behind key decisions, illuminates diplomatic and political negotiations, and underscores an unwavering faith—in maintaining hope and in harnessing powers of the mind. Thoughtfully researched, expertly crafted.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Soontornvat’s narrative nonfiction account shares these events and those that led to the rescue along with intricate details about caverns, sump diving, and other scientific details that emphasize the harrowing conditions of the rescue. She also touches on Thai culture, immigration issues, Buddhism, and religion...This stellar nonfiction work reads like a heart-pounding adventure story. Every library should have a copy.
—School Library Journal (starred review)
Soontornvat masterfully chronicles this amazing undertaking, in which incredible ad hoc feats of engineering became commonplace. Her narration and the testimonies of the numerous figures she interviewed are suspenseful and deeply felt. Interspersed with All Thirteen’s gripping account are fascinating, accessible analyses – supplemented by photos, diagrams, maps and more – of the cultural, technological, scientific and spiritual considerations that affected the rescue effort, from Buddhism to climate change to political protocol...All Thirteen is an inspiring testament to those 18 fateful days of communal empathy, determination and hope. In Soontornvat’s talented hands, it’s at once a nail-biter and a revelation: “This rescue was impossible, and they did it anyway.”
—BookPage (starred review)
Soontornvat’s narrative moves smoothly between those stranded deep within the cave (which eventually included four rescuers who chose to stay with them), local and national officials whose competence and reputation were at stake, and diverse teams of recruits and volunteers, whose energy and goodwill sometimes exceeded their effectiveness...Most spreads feature at least one color photograph or a schematic of a cave or recovery system; well-placed insets add cultural and scientific notes. An author note remarks on Soontornvat’s research and personal experiences, and annotated source notes, a bibliography, and index will also be provided.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Gr 4–7—In 2018, 12 members of the Wild Boars soccer team and their assistant coach were trapped in a cave for 18 days. It was a stunning and miraculous story that captivated the world. On June 23, 2018, the team and their assistant coach decided to hike through the caverns of Tham Luang Nang Non, the Cave of the Sleeping Lady. However, when they tried to leave, they discovered that the cave was flooded and they were trapped. Soontornvat's narrative nonfiction account shares these events and those that led to the rescue along with intricate details about caverns, sump diving, and other scientific details that emphasize the harrowing conditions of the rescue. She also touches on Thai culture, immigration issues, Buddhism, and religion. The main rescuers and their heroic efforts are highlighted, but Soontornvat also showcases stories of the Thai volunteers who had a huge impact on the rescue. Full-color photographs, maps, illustrations, and graphs are included throughout the text. The author, who is Thai American, was in northern Thailand visiting family when the story first broke. Her author's note features background information about interviewing the people involved with the rescue and meeting the Wild Boars team. Extensive source notes are included as well as a bibliography, image credits, and an index. VERDICT This stellar nonfiction work reads like a heart-pounding adventure story. Every library should have a copy.—V. Lynn Christiansen, Wiley International Studies Magnet Elem. Sch., Raleigh, NC
An in-depth account of a harrowing real-life mission that succeeds against all odds.
This book logs the 18 days that elapsed in the summer of 2018 as 12 boys—all members of the Wild Boars soccer team—and their coach were trapped inside Tham Luang Nang Non, or the Cave of the Sleeping Lady, after it flooded in northern Thailand. The world watched as a daring rescue ensued. Instructive on many levels, the present-tense narration re-creates the hair-raising suspense and tension, rendering details of the extreme dangers of dive rescues and the seemingly insurmountable logistical challenges created by the landscape and heavy rainfall. The text recounts the events, techniques, and diverse individuals involved in this struggle while retaining an urgency that propels page turns with bated breath despite the foreknowledge that the trapped team will survive, but one retired Thai Navy SEAL sacrifices his life. Color photos abound, and interspersed text boxes, diagrams, and maps pace the flow of information with salient data, distilling contextual background on related topics including cave formations, makeshift hydraulic engineering, Buddhism and spirituality, local geography, and the plight of Thailand’s stateless people, which included the coach and several players. Masterful storytelling fleshes out the complex human emotions behind key decisions, illuminates diplomatic and political negotiations, and underscores an unwavering faith—in maintaining hope and in harnessing powers of the mind.
Thoughtfully researched, expertly crafted. (author’s note, source notes, bibliography, image credits, index) (Nonfiction. 10-15)