The Fourteenth Goldfish, by Jennifer L. Holm | Book Review
By Jennifer L. Holm
Hardcover: 208 pages
Age Range: 8 to 12
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (August 2014)
What to expect: Science, Scientists, Humor, Family Relationships, Friendships, Immortality, Grandparents
In The Fourteenth Goldfish, Jennifer Holm illuminates the wonder and possibilities of science, the complexities of family relationships, and the allure of immortality through a humorous story of an eleven-year-old girl named Ellie and her quirky grandfather Melvin. Melvin is a scientist who has discovered a cellular regeneration formula to reverse aging. He is happily thirteen again and has come to live with Ellie and her divorced mother after being apprehended for trespassing at his own laboratory, where no one recognizes the new him. Melvin is desperate to retrieve the formula from his laboratory and publish the results so the formula can receive the recognition and accolades he believes it deserves. Though reversing his aging process was everything he wanted, Melvin realizes the limitations of being thirteen are vast and he relies on Ellie and her friends for help.
Melvin opens Ellie’s eyes to the omnipresence of science and how the achievements of scientists like Jonas Salk, Robert Oppenheimer, and Marie Curie have changed the world and how the world will continue to be shaped by people just like Ellie. Scientific processes and discoveries are a primary theme in The Fourteenth Goldfish and Holm presents them with humor and intrigue, capturing reader’s interests and attention. As one would expect, the idiosyncrasies of a seventy-six-year-old grandfather, reimagined and articulated by a thirteen-year-old boy, is quite comical. Holm humanizes science and gives readers the opportunity to reflect and discuss the possibilities and perils of the field.
Holm balances the interest in science with a plot that includes Ellie’s mom, a high school drama teacher, and Ellie’s dad, an actor, who are passionate about their careers and through whom, Holm demonstrates the value and importance of other fields of work to society. The story is also about a coming of age experience for sixth grader Ellie, an opponent of change, who through the antics of her grandfather, becomes friends with the most unlikely of characters and learns to see her own life, family, and future under the lens of a different microscope. The Fourteenth Goldfish is a clever novel that offers depth with humor while intersecting science and childhood in a memorable story perfect for sharing aloud with boys or girls.
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About the Author
Jennifer L. Holm is a NEW YORK TIMES bestselling children’s author and the recipient of three Newbery Honors for her novels OUR ONLY MAY AMELIA, PENNY FROM HEAVEN, and TURTLE IN PARADISE. Jennifer collaborates with her brother, Matthew Holm, on two graphic novel series—the Eisner Award-winning Babymouse series and the bestselling Squish series. Her new novel is THE FOURTEENTH GOLDFISH. She lives in California with her husband and two children.
For more information, visit: jenniferholm.com