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The Fourteenth Goldfish

The Fourteenth Goldfish

4.5 17
by Jennifer L. Holm

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Believe in the possible . . . with this New York Times bestseller by three-time Newbery Honor winner 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


Believe in the possible . . . with this New York Times bestseller by three-time Newbery Honor winner 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 gawky teenager really be Grandpa Melvin? Has he finally found the secret to eternal youth?
With a lighthearted touch and plenty of humor, Jennifer Holm celebrates the wonder of science and explores fascinating questions about life and death, family and friendship, immortality . . . and possibility. Look for EXCLUSIVE NEW MATERIAL in the paperback—including Ellie’s gallery of scientists and other STEM-appropriate features.
“Warm, witty, and wise.” —The New York Times

• “Written in a clean, crisp style, with lively dialogue and wit, this highly accessible novel will find a ready audience.” —Booklist, Starred

• “Top-notch middle-grade fiction.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred

• “Ellie’s memorable journey into the world of science will inspire readers to explore the world around them and celebrate the possible.” —Shelf Awareness, Starred
“Awesomely strange and startlingly true-to-life. It makes you wonder what’s possible.” —Rebecca Stead, Newbery Medal–winning author of When You Reach Me


Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Publishers Weekly starred review, May 26, 2014:
“This is top-notch middle-grade fiction with a meaty dilemma, humor, and an ending that leaves room for the possibility of a sequel. “

Booklist starred review, July 1, 2014:
"A great choice for book groups and class discussions as well as individual reading."

New York Times Books Review, August 24, 2014:
"“Youth, old age, life, death, love, possibilities, and – oh yes – goldfish all come together in this warm, witty and wise novel.”

The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, September 2014:
"Holm’s writing is crisp, accessible, and well paced, and her enthusiasm for science and its impact emerges clearly and consistently but not overbearingly, with clear, appreciative nods to the world of theater and its purpose in our lives. Indeed, this novel explores weighty elements of human existence with a light touch, allowing readers to engage with the issues at multiple levels; an excellent appendix of recommended readings encourages exploration and dialogue. This novel would make an ideal classroom read aloud, particularly to expose students to the rich and rewarding STEM fields."

The New York Times Book Review - Monica Edinger
Experiencing life in another person's shoes is a familiar motif in children's books. In Mary Rodgers's Freaky Friday, a mother and daughter switch bodies for a day, developing greater empathy for each other as a result. But here the change is permanent. Grandpa Melvin isn't suddenly going to go back to his adult self; he is going to grow up and old all over again. Yet not, we can see, in the same way. Even as he helps Ellie recognize they are kindred spirits, bonded by their love of science, she helps him reconsider his priorities…Youth, old age, life, death, love, possibilities and—oh yes—goldfish all come together in this warm, witty and wise novel.
VOYA, August 2014 (Vol. 37, No. 3) - Amanda MacGregor
When Ellie’s mother shows up at home one night with an opinionated and curmudgeonly thirteen-year-old boy in tow, there is something familiar about him. Imagine Ellie’s surprise when she learns that boy is Melvin, her grandfather, who has discovered the cure for aging (thanks to a particular species of jellyfish). The cure comes with some catches: despite actually being seventy-six and having two PhDs, Melvin must attend middle school and live with Ellie and her mother (his daughter, with whom he has a contentious relationship). Ellie, who is growing apart from her best friend, is surprised by her newfound interest in science, thanks to Melvin, and her new friendship with Raj, a goth classmate who is let in on Melvin’s secret. Ellie begins to question whether her grandfather’s discovery is actually a good thing, wondering what the long-term consequences will be. As Ellie navigates all that comes with being twelve, she ruminates on life, change, beginnings, and endings. Holm strikes the perfect balance of looking at weighty topics while keeping the tone light. The mix of introspection and action (Ellie, Raj, and Melvin need to break into Melvin’s lab) keeps the plot moving along. As Ellie learns more about scientists and their experiments, she draws parallels to her own life, thinking, “I’m a jellyfish glowing in the dark sea, bright and brilliant, just waiting to be discovered.” This is a smart, funny, and touching story about a family learning from one another and about themselves. Reviewer: Amanda MacGregor; Ages 11 to 14.
Children's Literature - Peg Glisson
Ellie is not a big fan of change, but her life seems full of it—beginning middle school, navigating friendships, and having a teenage grandfather. Yes, her scientist grandfather Melvin has cracked the fountain of youth, and he is now thirteen and must live with them and attend her school! Of course, while he looks like a teen (pimples and all), his dress, intellect, and cranky, bossy behaviors are as before. Ellie enjoys their discussions as he opens her up to the world of science, so different from her divorced parents’ theatrical endeavors. She and her new friend Raj easily slip into accepting Melvin as he is, even eating with him in the school cafeteria and helping him regain the scientific specimen that allowed him to reverse his age. Ellie’s mother, however, cannot overcome the animosity that has long strained her relationship with Melvin and that is evident in every conversation. This breezy story has serious undertones dealing with family, trust, discovery, aging, and ethics. There are occasional glimpses into the softer side of Melvin, but Ellie and her mom are not developed as individuals, other than Ellie’s emerging passion for science. Plot is key, with a lot of telling as opposed to showing in the text. Holm makes the point that girls can be anything and having different passions and interests is a good thing. Her light touch and inclusion of contemporary details will pull readers in, despite some lapses in logic and an abrupt ending. Teachers will find this a fun read aloud, with possibilities for deeper discussion as a class or in small groups. Reviewer: Peg Glisson; Ages 9 to 12.
School Library Journal
Gr 5–7—Eleven-year-old Ellie Cruz's life changes dramatically when her mother brings a teenage boy home one night and she learns it is her estranged grandfather. Melvin is a scientist who has figured out how to reverse aging and is now 13 again. Tensions are high between Melvin and his adult daughter, Ellie's mother, but Ellie feels like she now has the opportunity to really get to know her grandfather. Her interest in science blossoms, and she is eager to help Melvin retrieve the jellyfish specimen he used in his experiments so he can publish his discovery. Fascinated, Ellie learns about the work of Jonas Salk, Robert Oppenheimer, and Marie Curie. But as she learns more, she realizes that scientific discoveries often have unforeseen consequences. Readers are carried along with Ellie as she navigates old and new friendships in her first year in middle school with the added complication of her teenage grandfather at the same school. Short chapters keep the story moving at an engaging pace, and the interactions among the characters will easily hold readers' interest. Ellie's growing relationship with her grandfather helps her make discoveries about herself. Melvin, who begins as unapologetically single-minded in his determination to continue his work, also learns from Ellie. With humor and heart, Holm has crafted a story about life, family, and finding one's passion that will appeal to readers willing to imagine the possible.—Amanda Raklovits, Champaign Public Library, IL
Kirkus Reviews
What would it be like if your grandfather turned up in your house as a 13-year-old boy?For sixth-grader Ellie, this leads to a recognition of the importance of the cycle of life and the discovery of her own passion for science. After her scientist grandfather finds a way to regain his youth, he’s denied access to his lab and must come to live with Ellie and her mother. Although he looks young, his intellect and attitudes haven’t changed. He still tells Ellie’s mother what to wear and when to come home, and he loathes middle school even more than Ellie does. There’s plenty of opportunity for humor in this fish-out-of-water story and also a lesson on the perils as well as the pluses of scientific discovery. Divorced parents, a goth friend and a longed-for cellphone birthday present are among the familiar details setting this story firmly in the present day, like Holm’s Year Told Through Stuff series, rather than in the past, like her three Newbery Honor–winning historical novels. The author demonstrates understanding of and sympathy for the awkwardness of those middle school years. But she also gets in a plug for the excitement of science, following it up with an author’s note and suggestions for further exploration, mostly on the Web.Appealing and thought-provoking, with an ending that suggests endless possibilities. (Science fiction. 10-14)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

JENNIFER L. HOLM’s father was a pediatrician and she grew up listening to him talk about the wonder of antibiotics and how science could change the world. Today Jennifer is the New York Times bestselling author of three Newbery Honor books, as well as the co-creator of the Babymouse series (an Eisner Award Winner) and the Squish series, both of which she collaborates on with her brother, Matthew Holm. Find out more about her by visiting jenniferholm.com and look for her on Twitter at @jenniholm.

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The Fourteenth Goldfish 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Totally heart touching. "Believe in the possible." -Dr. Melvin Sagarsky, The Fourteenth Goldfish
This_Kid_Reviews_Books More than 1 year ago
Summary – Ellie’s parents keep telling her she needs to find her passion in life, but lately Ellie is only feeling numb. The start of sixth grade is not going well. Her best friend, Brianna, is more interested in the volleyball team than being with Ellie, middle school seems like an alien world, and she just found out that her parents have been replacing her beloved pet goldfish “Goldie” with a new fish for the past seven years every time a “Goldie” died! Things get a lot more complicated when her mom brings home an ornery, pushy, oddly dressed teenage boy who just happens to be Ellie’s scientist grandfather (Melvin) who found a cure for old age, but has been locked out of his lab by its new owners. Will Ellie ever find her passion or at least survive middle school now that her grandfather is enrolled as a student? What I thought – I. LOVED. THIS. BOOK. I loved everything about it. I loved it so much I told my mom to read it (she is a scientist) and she loved it too. I really like that the book isn’t focused on the wacky science experiment that turned Ellie’s grandfather, Melvin, into a teenager, but rather it is focused on Ellie’s struggle to find her “passion,” dealing with growing apart from a friend, and getting closer to her grandfather. The wacky science stuff happens all around all these big topics. Of course I love Melvin. He is so cranky and nerdy it’s awesome! That part of the story is hilarious! I also like that there is real science facts in the book not just the wacky reversing age thing. It also teaches an important lesson about the power of science and how it has to be used wisely (I sound like Uncle Ben in Spiderman “With great power comes great responsibility” ;) ). One of my favorite character interactions is how Ellie and her grandfather get to know each other better and they both seem to help each other. The book is just an awesome read. The chapters are very short and you just want to read the whole thing right away. One thing I noticed is that on each chapter heading, there are that many goldfish (like one goldfish on chapter 1 and two goldfish on chapter 2 and so on) up until chapters 14, 15 and 16 – they all have 14 goldfish. Then chapter 17 has 13 goldfish, 18 has 12 and so on until the last chapter has just one goldfish again. Okay that’s pretty nerdy of me to notice that, but I still think it’s cool. ;) *NOTE* I got a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really cool and funny. I am going into fifth grade and don't have to read fifth grade books but I choose to anyway. I thought this book was going to be okay because I love books by Jennifer L. Holm, but don't like science that much. I was surprised at how good it was. It was the best fifth grade summer reading book ever. GO JENNIFER L. HOLM -By Ava
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kiss your hand three times post this on three diffrent books look under your pillow
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I like this book because its funny
4Gazpacho More than 1 year ago
Who or what was the fourteenth goldfish? Well, the first thirteen were goldfish, of course. But the fourteenth was the impossible made possible, at least in this story. Ellie had just entered the sixth grade. Everything was different yet very much the same--a different building and some new students but with the same attitudes she'd left behind. She felt like a nobody. She still sat alone for lunch. Even her childhood best friend had drifted away when her interest was snagged by volleyball.  Then one day a new boy about Ellie's age came home with her mom. Lissa was the school drama teacher; Ellie was used to students coming home with her. But this was not a typical drama student. His name was Marvin and he looked strangely familiar. He wore clothes we would associate with a 70-year-old man. He talked to her mother as if he knew her well. He reminded Ellie of her grandfather, who lived close by but whom they didn't see often because he and her mom didn't see eye-to-eye on much. He was a scientist. Her mom was an artist. Suddenly life became very interesting. Marvin was her grandfather in a thirteen-year-old's body. Perhaps because of her age, or maybe because of her grandfather's influence, Ellie began to see the world in a different way. Marvin was interesting to talk to. He taught her about science and history--how big changes came to the world through inventions and discoveries. But the learning was a two-way street. Marvin had gotten stuck in a rut. He wasn't thinking of the consequences of the experiment that allowed him to reverse aging. Frankly, he thought like a 76-year-old man. He needed fresh perspective, which is exactly what he got living with his daughter and granddaughter, forced to attend school with Ellie. Now, Ellie was a thinker, and she challenged him. In the end, all three learned valuable lessons from each other. Ahead of them, life was filled with possibilities. The author writes this story from Ellie's perspective. The humor is quirky, and sure to be enjoyed by middle school readers who like the off-the-wall type of viewpoint. The chapters are short and simple. Some of the chapters seem pointless and don't move the story along very well, yet set the tone just the same. The reading level is low for a middle grade book so that I believe a younger good reader would enjoy it as well. There is no crude language in the book. Bullying is not an issue in this volume, and the student disparity is only lightly touched on. The book is written for entertainment purposes, not overly focused on the tough issues of life.  The author herself grew up in a home where science was a given. Both her parents were in the medical field. It wasn't unusual for the cottage cheese and a bacterial culture growing in a petri dish to be side by side in the refrigerator. It was natural for her to incorporate a love of science into her writing as she did in this book. The theme is not overly intrusive or pushy. The author just uses Ellie's natural curiosity and growing awareness of what the life of a scientist could be like to grow her character. It's good writing. This is a book I would love a young scientist-to-be to read.  Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from NetGalley, on behalf of Random House Books for Young Readers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
It’s a fun story centering around eleven-year old Ellie and her grandfather. Bickering with her mother, a young male makes his way into the house accompanying Ellie’s mom wearing polyester pants and a tweed jacket. Ellie thinks this teen looks a bit like her grandfather but how can that be? This thirteen- year old youngster cannot be her seventy-six year old grandfather. With twenty-twenty vision, a head of hair, arthritis gone and his hearing good as new, Ellie grandfather has found the way to reverse aging. He then used this treatment upon himself. Reading this, I thought of the movie, Big and I was excited. To be young again, really young, would I go back in time and live my life over? Grandpa did something terrific but would he be able to reap the benefits? Did he want to be a kid again and have fun or was he just doing this for science since he was a scientist? Grandfather feels like he has the world at his hands but first, he needs to deal with the implications of being young and no one recognizing him. Ellie gets a lot of grandpa time as he is now her babysitter and he must also go to school with Ellie as he adjusts to being a teenager again. The author does a terrific job adding lots of fascinating science facts and details into the storyline all throughout the story. Science is a process and the two of them discover parts of the process together. The duo of Ellie and her grandfather, these two are quite something at school and home. Grandfather has years of experience and education but in a body of an adolescent and his granddaughter, she’s young but she’s sharp also. They are truly a remarkable pair. I received a complimentary e-book from NetGalley and Random House BFYR in exchange for my honest review. Thank you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This wasn't my type of book, but I tried it out, and it turned out pretty good. The only reason I didn't rate 5 stars is because it was not my type of genre. I did love how Ellie and her grandfather had a very scientific adventure with each other. Great book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My name is Ellie,I miss fith gade and I really miss my fourteenth fish(my most recent 1). CREEPY!!!! : O
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GHott More than 1 year ago
Hott Synopsis: ‘You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him discover it for himself’ ~ Galileo Galilei Science fiction is becoming reality in Ellie’s house! It may take her a few minutes to catch up, but she does eventually realize that the teen ordering her mother around is really her grandfather, Melvin. The thing is, Ellie finds her grandfather tremendously interesting and fun… though she’d much prefer for him to be his own age again. Hott Review: What I liked: The Fourteenth Goldfish was a cute middle-grade book. It was interesting and fast-paced. The huge underlying lesson is one that should stay with them for a long time. What I didn’t like: I think this is going to be a niche book. There are a lot of science terms and references that not all middle-graders will enjoy. More… Author: Jennifer L. Holm Source: Random House Books for Young Readers via Netgalley Grade: B+ Ages: 10-15 Setting: San Francisco, CA
MargieS1 More than 1 year ago
Given To Me For An Honest Review The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm is a great book for ages 8 - 12 and grades 3 - 7.  Once you begin reading  this book it will be hard to put down. As you read it you will feel as though you are part of the story. It is funny, action packed and very inspirational. It touches on family issues, school issues, peer and friendship issues with lots of humor . It is easy to read and its about science. I recommend this to all. 
BooksAplenty More than 1 year ago
Things get strange when Ellie's elderly grandfather shows up at her house as a teenage boy. Grandpa is a scientist and he's discovered a way to reverse aging. Now he's living with Ellie and her mom, and things are very strange. The Fourteenth Goldfish is getting so much positive buzz! There have been talks of it winning the Newbery, the Goodreads page is glowing, and it was even selected for the 2014 Global Read Aloud. So it feels like blasphemy to say, but I found The Fourteenth Goldfish kind of disappointing. The Fourteenth Goldfish just didn't feel complete to me. It's a really straight-forward, single-plot story so that should make it easy to follow, but there were gaps in the narrative that made me lose track of how much time was passing and how various events were connected. A longer book, maybe from different perspectives, may have worked better. Still, it was a fun read with some great moments. Grandpa Melvin may be one of my favorite characters in a long time. People seem to really like the science aspect of this book, but it really disappointed me. Maybe it's because I have worked with researchers on how kids view scientists, but this book reinforced more stereotypes than it combated. However, I love love loved the talk about believing in possibilities and that scientists are passionate people who don't give up. Overall, The Fourteenth Goldfish may provide a good starting point for classroom conversations about science, scientists, and fuzzy morality. 3.5 stars Note: I was provided a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review