Building a Dream: How the Boys of Koh Panyee Became Champions

by Darshana Khiani (Author) Dow Phumiruk (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

An unforgettable tale of persistence and problem-solving, based on the amazing true story of a Thai soccer team who made their own place to play.

In Thailand's Phang Nga Bay, atop a network of stilts, floats the village of Koh Panyee--where a group of boys loved soccer but had nowhere to practice. Where could they find space to dribble, juggle, shoot, and score? The boys looked out at the water and started gathering tools. Even while their neighbors laughed, they sawed wood, hammered nails, and tied barrels together. The team worked for weeks to build Koh Panyee's first floating field--a place to practice, and a place to transform their community...

With engaging soccer scenes and atmospheric images of southern Thailand, this inspiring book follows a group of boys who became a team long before they had jerseys or even a field. Plank by plank, they built their dream.

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Kirkus Reviews

A stirring story of perseverance.


A great read-alike for Julie Abery and Chris Sasaki's Sakamoto's Swim Club.

School Library Journal

Gr 2-4--In Koh Panyee, a village on stilts in Thailand's Phang Nga Bay, a group of boys shares a love for football (soccer in the U.S.). Playing football in a floating village is nigh impossible. Even as the whole village makes fun of them, the boys build a floating soccer pitch. With practice, they're able to compete in a real tournament on dry land. Only after witnessing their success do the boys' families and neighbors stop ridiculing them. Based on a true story, this is a charming if wordy tale of perseverance. Many pages feature multiple sentences or paragraphs spread across the page. Dialogue, ellipses, italics, and words in all uppercase create a complex reading experience for an otherwise simple story. The digital artwork is colorful but lacks depth. Characters are flat and there is no discernible light source in most illustrations. Bodies sometimes feature elongated limbs and awkward poses that make football scenes feel static. However, the scenes depicted enrich the text by providing readers with more information. Backgrounds are colorful and attractive. Back matter includes notes from the author and illustrator. VERDICT Recommended only for large collections.--Chance Lee Joyner

Copyright 2023 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
Darshana Khiani
Darshana Khiani was born in Kenya and immigrated to the United States when she was one. She is an author, engineer, and advocate for South Asian children's literature. She is infinitely curious about the world and enjoys sharing her findings with young readers. If she can make a child laugh, even better. She is the author of How to Wear a Sari. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family and a furry pup.

You can visit her online at or follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok @DarshanaKhiani.

Laura Freeman is the New York Times bestselling illustrator of Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race, for which she won the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award and NAACP Image Award. She received her BFA from the School of Visual Arts and has illustrated over thirty children's books, including Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice and The Faith of Elijah Cummings: The North Star of Equal Justice. In addition to illustrations in books and editorial content, her art can be found on a wide range of products, from dishes and textiles to greeting cards. She lives with her family in Atlanta.

You can visit her online at
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
Publication date
September 20, 2023
BISAC categories
JNF051130 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Technology | Machinery & Tools
JNF038020 - Juvenile Nonfiction | People & Places | Asia
JNF053200 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Social Topics | Values & Virtues
JNF054130 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Sports & Recreation | Soccer
Library of Congress categories
Picture books
Teamwork (Sports)
Soccer for children
Sports fiction
Soccer fields
Ko Panyai

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