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

Book review by
Mandie Caroll, Common Sense Media
All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys' Soccer Team Book Poster Image
Compelling, exciting, educational story of 2018 cave rescue.

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Kids say

age 9+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Diagrams, maps, and text boxes explain topics including "A Karst Cave System," "Rules to Dive by," "Buddhism in Thailand," and "Stages of Hypothermia," supplement the storyline with educational background information.

Positive Messages

Teamwork, camaraderie, and love are important to survival, maybe even as important as food and water. Stress-relieving practices like meditation make a mind strong and able to push through traumatic experiences. if you've been successful at something, you've had help to get there -- from family, neighbors, community, teachers, school, spiritual leaders, and/or culture. Be grateful, be humble, take care of each other, do good.

Positive Role Models

Coach Ek and his young soccer players are deeply inspiring as they persevere and care for one another. The ingenuity, generosity, and collaboration shown by Thai rescuers and community volunteers, and their international counterparts, reflect models for teamwork and how to get along in a diverse world. Main focus is on Thai culture and Thai people. A U.S. Air Force team and expert rescue divers from the UK, Australia, and the Netherlands participate in the rescue effort. The international volunteers all appear to be White.

Violence & Scariness

Lots of suspense may create fear for some readers. One rescue diver dies, though it's unclear how he died, and the scene of his lifeless body being pulled from the flooded cave water is brief and not graphic.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Christina Soontornvat's first nonfiction book, All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys' Soccer Team, won a 2021 Newbery Honor. It details the gripping circumstances around the 2018 rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach from a cave in northern Thailand that flooded after they entered it. Narrated in present tense, the story's action is fast-moving and engaging, while supplemental information amps up the educational content around karst cave systems, Buddhism in Thailand, rules for diving, Thailand's stateless people, and so on. There's no violence, though there are plenty of scary and tense moments. 

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Kid, 11 years old April 10, 2021

One of the best I’ve ever read

This book is just amazing, and I can’t believe I didn’t know about this before, but this book was more than enough. I can see why it won a Newbery Honor. 9+ bec... Continue reading

What's the story?

ALL THIRTEEN begins as boys of the Wild Boars soccer team finish practice and decide to bike up to the Tham Luamg Cave system for an afternoon of exploring. They enter a cave and it begins to rain, hard, and water floods the passages the boys had entered through, blocking their way back out. The story is told in the present tense, in 31 short chapters, several of which cover each day of the 17-day rescue effort. The book alternates between, how they boys and their coach survived the ordeal in the tiny chamber in which they were trapped, and the massive rescue effort involving thousands of volunteers, military personnel, and expert cave divers from around the world that took shape in the days after the boys were stranded. An author's note, source notes, and bibliography at the end support extended learning.

Is it any good?

This gripping, instructive book more than achieves its goal of telling the story of the 2018 cave rescue from the Thai perspective. All Thirteen does this, with the main focus on the boys of the soccer team and the enormous outpouring of support from Thai volunteers, the military, and the government for bringing the young soccer players out of the flooded cave alive. The White, international volunteers get fair treatment for their critical contributions, but the Thai heroes of the rescue effort finally get their due here.

The book is an all-around fantastic read. Present-tense narration brings the reader into the suspenseful urgency of the moment. Soontornvat digs deep to unravel details of the rescue many never learned, like the fact that the boys were sedated for their dive rescue, and all the innovative things Thai and international volunteers did to, together, create a rescue operation that had any chance of working. The inclusion of full-color photos, maps, diagrams, and text boxes help the reader to further understand the cultural context and science of caves and diving. This is a great pick for adventure lovers, fans of true survival stories, and any kid looking for an absorbing, suspenseful read.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the character strengths of the young soccer players and their coach featured in All Thirteen. How did they persevere? How did they show courage? What about gratitude or humility?

  • What surprised or impressed you the most about this story? Which people involved in the rescue effort are most memorable? Why?

  • At times during the two-week rescue effort, the non-Thai, international volunteers had trouble communicating with the Thai leaders of the rescue effort. How did they work through their differences? What can we learn about working with people who have different ways of communicating?

Book details

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