The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm

By Ekta R. Garg

September 3, 2014

Rated: Bookmark it!

When a young girl learns that her grandfather has made the most amazing scientific discovery since penicillin, it ignites in her a newfound respect for science overall. But complications arise from her grandfather’s work, and the girl finds herself facing brand new situations and making the most unlikely of friends. Jennifer L. Holm delights and charms her middle grade readers with this plot in The Fourteenth Goldfish.

Ellie has begun to learn the hard way that growing up means lots of changes. Going from fifth grade to sixth grade means starting over in finding one’s place within the school’s social paradigm. Having a best friend who recently made the volleyball team means spending lunches without said best friend. When the goldfish dies, Ellie finds out from her mother that this goldfish was not, in point of fact, the one Ellie has raised since preschool. It’s actually one of many that her mother replaced through the years in secret.

But the word “change” hits home in full force when Ellie’s grandfather shows up on their doorstep…as a teenager. Grandpa Melvin has discovered something that helps reverse aging and used himself as the first human test subject for the experiment. Now that he’s a teen, however, no one takes him seriously, and Melvin needs Ellie’s help to re-establish himself and his lab so he can continue with his work. In the meantime he’s trying to figure out how to live like a teenager again without getting caught—or at least without getting detention.

Soon enough it becomes apparent that re-establishing Grandpa Melvin’s lab will mean more than shoving some boxes in the garage to one side to make space for a table and a microscope. The more Grandpa Melvin talks about his work, though, the more intrigued Ellie becomes. She realizes that science is as much about change as anything else, and that if her grandfather can endure such a major life change than she can tolerate these smaller ones.

Author Jennifer L. Holm presents middle grade readers a refreshing story. She doesn’t allow room for any innuendo, letting her audience enjoy Ellie’s tale as it unfolds. As a result, parents will have no trouble giving their kids permission to pick up this one. The benefit doubles when readers will discover that this book teaches as much as it entertains, and Ellie’s increasing interest in science could possibly become infectious.

A solid plot and primary and secondary characters guarantee this book will score high for its intended readership, but adults will also want to check it out. I highly recommend The Fourteenth Goldfish for anyone who likes to read.

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