Book Reviews

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm



“Galileo. Newton. Salk. Oppenheimer.

Science can change the world . . . but can it go too far?

Eleven-year-old Ellie has never liked change. She misses fifth grade. She misses her old best friend. She even misses her dearly departed goldfish. Then one day a strange boy shows up. He’s bossy. He’s cranky. And weirdly enough . . . he looks a lot like Ellie’s grandfather, a scientist who’s always been slightly obsessed with immortality.

Could this pimply boy really be Grandpa Melvin?

Has he finally found the secret to eternal youth?” ~Goodreads



Published: August 2014 by Random House Books for Young Readers

Length:  208 pages

Audience: ages 9 & up; grades 4 and up; classrooms; teachers; parents; everyone

Genre: Children’s Literature; Middle Grades; Science Fiction; Humor


Jennifer L. Holm, author of the popular Babymouse series, hits a home run (IMO) with this realistic fiction meets sci-fi book for upper elementary/middle school children.

This was such a breath of fresh air when being surrounded by “series books” and many post-apocalypse books for the younger audience right now. Working at the library, that is all I see. So I made it my mission to read more middle grade books. Books that I can recommend to readers looking for something new. Something different. I have no trouble finding read-alikes for popular books that are requested “something like Divergent, The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, etc.” But there are many children coming in that really aren’t into those books and  I found myself at a loss.

Here is a perfect read for those kids who love science mixed with humor. I devoured it and loved all the references of Salk, Oppenheimer, Galileo, Pasteur, Curie and even some literature references because Ellie’s parents are theater buffs. Ellie’s grandfather is a scientist and his return into her life as a thirteen year-old not only teaches her about science but what it’s like to never give up and try your hardest.

‘Average people just give up at the obstacles we face every day. Scientists fail again and again and again. Sometimes our whole lives. But we don’t give up, because we want to solve the puzzle.’

‘I like puzzles,’ I say.

‘Yes, but have you ever tried to put a puzzle together and given up because it was too hard?’

I nod.

‘Scientists never give up. They keep trying because they believe in the possible.’

Did I mention the grandfather is hilarious?! He just steals scene after scene with his erratic and mad scientist ways. But while he is going through this endeavor to try and find eternal youth (and it’s very endearing) Ellie is not only dealing with him but a new experience of going to middle school. He once best friend joined the volleyball team and spends all her time with them. Ellie is kind of floundering. Trying her best to “grow up” while reminiscing about being younger and more carefree. We all remember middle school, right? Not the easiest time in our lives to navigate and this story touches upon that without over dramatizing the experience.

“Middle school is like one of those highway restrooms in the middle of nowhere. It’s dirty and smelly, and it’s crowded with strange people. By the time I graduated from elementary school, I knew everyone. I had watched them grow up and they had watched me. We knew who’d wet their pants in kindergarten, and whose father always screamed too loud at the coach during T-ball games. We had no secrets, and it was comfortable. But in middle school there are so many new kids. Some seem like they’re from different planets.”



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s