MG Book Review: The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm

gfEleven-year-old Ellie has to face some unhappy changes. First her goldfish dies, then her best friend bumps her for the volleyball team, then a strange 13-yr-old boy comes home with her mother. This boy happens to be her 76-year-old scientist grandfather who has discovered an anti-aging drug extracted from a rare jellyfish.

Her teenage grandfather comes to live with them. He might look like a 13-year-old and he certainly eats like one, but inside, he’s still a stubborn old man. Grandpa Melvin introduces her to the world of science and its endless possibilities while Ellie introduces Melvin to the world of middle school. Melvin’s quest to win the Nobel Prize for his cure for aging becomes Ellie’s quest too, until she starts to question the wisdom of never growing old.

This funny, delightful story is deceptively multi-layered and thought-provoking. It also includes undisguised praise for science and scientists in which Holm makes science seem more fascinating than magic. She does a fabulous job of capturing the middle-grade voice and keeping the dialogue authentic. Kids between the ages of 10-14 will enjoy the realistic middle school characters and the quirky twist of a science experiment gone awry.

Whether kids will grasp the deeper implications of the sub-plots are questionable. The older readers will definitely understand it all and appreciate it. The younger readers will like it because the surface story stands alone as an enjoyable read.

You might be wondering why it’s called “The Fourteenth Goldfish”. I’d rather not tell you. It would be like telling you the punchline of a joke before you heard the set-up. But I will tell you that it all falls into place like the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle in a very satisfying way.

I highly recommend “The Fourteenth Goldfish” to ages 10 and up including adults.


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