The Fourteenth Goldfish

Written by Jennifer L. Holm

What if your grandfather found the Fountain of Youth and ended up a teenager barely older than you? Would you let him go to your middle school despite his two PhD’s? These questions and more are answered in Holm’s delightful new book.

Eleven-year-old Ellie comes home one day to find her mother with a thirteen-year-old boy in tow. Turns out the boy is Ellie’s grandfather, Melvin, who tested his anti-aging potion on himself. Ellie has to help him complete his research and adjust to middle school. When the potion works, Melvin is kicked out of his own lab by an enthusiastic guard. Denied access to his research, Melvin enlists Ellie’s help plus the help of Ellie’s friend. Absurd details such as Melvin wearing “old man” clothes, or whatever is clean, and using Ellie’s hair bands on his pony tail give the book kid-appeal. Ellie’s mom and grandfather experience a sort of incomplete role reversal, where she grounds him and he tells her to be in by a certain hour.

Although this book is pure fiction, the author manages to sneak in many scientific and historic facts and philosophical questions. Who was Robert Oppenheimer? Are scientific advancements inherently good or do they often carry elements of good and evil? What is the responsibility of the scientist to recognize those elements? Isn’t it important to maintain the circle of life? Third graders and above will enjoy the outrageous ideas in this story and gain literacy skills. Reading activities include research of the many topics introduced and discussion of other topics that might be explored.

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  • Fourteenth GoldfishTitle: The Fourteenth Goldfish
  • Author: Jennifer L. Holm
  • Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers, 2014
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 208 pages
  • Genre: Fiction, fantasy
  • ISBN: 978-0-375-87064-4
  • Grade level: 3 to 6

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