Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm

Imagine your mom coming home one day with a snarky 13 year old boy in tow that turns out to be your grandfather.  Well, that is just what happens to 11-going-on12 year old Ellie Cruz, and it couldn't have happened at a worse time.  Her parents are divorced, albeit amicably.  She misses 5th grade and is facing 6th grade without her best friend Brianna, who has discover volleyball and now hangs out the other girls on the team.  And she misses her miracle goldfish that has finally died after 7 years, the fish that was supposed to teach her about the cycle of life.  Now, she finds out that her mother has simple replaced her goldfish with another each time it died - 13 goldfish in all.

The last thing Ellie needs right now is a 13 year old grandfather, but that is what she gets.  It seems grandpa, Dr. Melvin  Sagarsky, 76 and with 2 PhDs to his credit, has discovered the secret to reverse aging thanks to a rare jellyfish.  Now he is stuck in middle school with Ellie and is being forced to read The Catcher in the Rye ("All this Holden kid does is whine.  He should just get a job").

So imagine how Dr. 2PhDs middle schooler Melvin Sagarsky feels when a goth kid named Raj calls him a quack while riding the school bus.  It seems that, despite his many published articles, grandpa's lifetime of research trying to find the secret to the fountain of youth isn't widely admired by the rest of the scientific community, even if he does have a fan club in Finland.

Now imagine Ellie's surprise when Raj, who, it turns out, is very much into science, shows up at her house, newly hired as Melvin's lab assistant.  Their goal: to break into the lab where Melvin used to work and steal the rare jellyfish that helped him reverse the aging process.  Natually, Ellie wants in.

Sounds easy enough, right?  Wrong!

You've probably already figured out that this book is pretty funny.  And it is, but at its heart is a rather serious question - what happens if Melvin's discovery works out and people stop aging, what does that do to the cycle of life?

The Fourteenth Goldfish is a character/action driven coming of age novel fueled by science and I really enjoyed reading it.  I liked watching Ellie grow and change, and seeing how she coped with everything going on around her.   It was particularly nice to read about a girl who learns a lot about science and the for-better-or-worse life-changing work of people like Galileo, Issac Newton, Robert Oppenheimer and Jonas Salk from her grandfather.  It's through her many conversations with Melvin that Ellie discovers she also has a real interest in science.  And a real interest in the ethical questions scientific discoveries can generate.  Oddly enough, despite regressing to a snarky 13 year old while still remaining as curmudgeony as ever, even Melvin grows as a character for the same reasons.

It was also nice to read a book that has parents that get along after divorce and a father who is still welcomed in his daughter's home.  And it was nice to see an ex-husband who got along with his wife's new, serious boyfriend.  Perhaps that is why Ellie was able to handle her own age appropriate problems so well.  For example, she and Brianna may have drifted into different interests, but they remained friends.

The Fourteenth Goldfish is a fun, quirky easy to read novel about life, friendship, science and possibility.  Definitely not a novel to miss.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was an E-ARC received from NetGalley


  1. Sounds interesting and fascinating...thanks for sharing it.

  2. This sounds like it could be really funny. The cover design is excellent. It would definitely cause me to pick it up. Unfortunately, my library doesn't have a copy.

  3. Wow what a wonderful find Alex. I love how complex issues are easily intertwined in the story telling. This is definitely going on my reading list for later :)
    -Reshama @Stackingbooks

  4. I've heard much about this book, so glad to read your review! Thanks for sharing.

    Stopping by via the Kid Lit Blog Hop

    Brittany @Bookwormtales

  5. This sounds like a fabulous read. We love funny in our house and we will have the chance to meet Jennifer Holm in November at a kidlit festival, so we must bump this up on our TBR list. We are fans of her BabyMouse books. Thanks for sharing on the KidLitBlog Hop!
    ~Cool Mom for The Stanley & Katrina Gang

  6. I'm a big fan of Jennifer L. Holm, so I'm looking forward to checking this out! Thanks for linking up to the Kid Lit Blog Hop this week!

  7. Sounds like a fantastic book! Thank you for the recommendation and review!
    Thank you for linking up with the Kid Lit Blog Hop!


  8. Oh wow, this sounds fantastic. Totally have to pin this one for Gigi in the future. It has a girl who likes science, I am sold, and the premise is totally quirky. Thanks for another great book recommendation from the Kid Lit blog Hop

  9. This sounds like such a cute book. I thought about getting it from NetGalley a while back, but I had too many other things to read. I'll have to get it from the library. Glad you liked it!

  10. This sounds like a very interesting read. I hopped over from the Kid Lit Blog Hop.

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  12. Thanks so much for reviewing Holm's new book; my students, daughter and I really enjoyed Turtle in Paradise. I keep thinking I'm seeing The Fourteenth Goldfish on our library shelves every time I spy Paul meets Bernadette out of the corner of my eye... similar cover colouring and also a 'fishy' cover!
    I found your blog through kid lit blog hop and look forward to following it now.
    Kimbra Power, Barefoot Librarian


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