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All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team by Christina Soontornvat

Every human being should read All Thirteen by Christina Soontornvat.

You may be thinking, ‘Wait! What? Did she just write, “Every human being should read All Thirteen?” ‘

Yes, that is what I wrote, and I stand behind my words. All Thirteen is a narrative nonfiction text that shows when we are willing to collaborate together with people from all over the world from every “walk of life” that impossible is only a construct in our minds.

Each page filled me with tons of hope and awe. I don’t know about you but hope and awe aren’t feelings that I’ve experienced much of in these past ten months. But, when I started reading All Thirteen at 1 AM on a Saturday morning and didn’t put it down till I finished at 4 AM, I knew this was a book I would be telling everyone about. Even people who I love with all my heart who I never tell to read a book because it isn’t something they enjoy like my husband, younger son and my mother.

The flap cover quotes the author, Christina Soontornvat, “It is the heroism of regular people that made this rescue possible. Many stories focus on the brave divers who pulled the boys out of the cave, but I also want to tell you about the thousands of Thai people who were pivotal to saving the boys’ lives. The Wild Boars are both extraordinary and totally ordinary at the same time. They defied impossible odds and taught me that we are capable of so much more that we can even imagine.”

This book will appeal to students who:

  1. Play soccer
  2. Meditate
  3. Want to be in the military
  4. Want to be engineers
  5. Love nature
  6. Love geology
  7. Love adventures
  8. Love a great story
  9. Love helping others
  10. Want to feel good about the world we live in

So, how am I going to get this book into my students’ hands? I bought two copies, one for each cohort, from my local independent bookstore, The Silver Unicorn.

But buying the book itself isn’t enough. One of the challenges I’ve really struggled with this year is figuring out a way to share books I love with kids that don’t fit in with the current genre we’re studying. In years past, we had Friday fun reads where every readers’ workshop students could read whatever book they wanted. Well, now that we’re only in school two days a week, we don’t have that option anymore.

So, I’m taking five minutes at the start of every day to read a few pages from a book I love. Then, I pick a stick with a student’s name and ask that student if the book appeals to them. They can pass or take it home to read. So far I’ve placed the following books in students’ hands:

  1. The Next President by Kate Messner
  2. Me and Marvin Gardens by Amy Sarig King
  3. Bionic Beasts by Jolene Gutiérrez
  4. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
  5. A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat

The reading of one of my favorite books and giving it to one lucky student has become an activity I cherish. It’s allowing me to get to know my students better. When I pull a stick, I make a prediction in my mind about whether or not they’ll take the book. Of course if they choose a book and put it in their backpack, it gives me a window into topics that appeal to them.

But I can learn just as much from “a pass” as well. After I read a few pages of Me and Marvin Gardens one of my students emphatically shook her head explaining that she didn’t like blood and couldn’t possibly read a book about blood.  That’s an example of a window I never expected to look through but I was able to experience just by taking five minutes out of my day to read a few pages of a book.

So do your class and the world a favor. Buy as many copies of  All Thirteen as your budget allows and place it in as many hands as possible.

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