The Fourteenth Goldfish

The Fourteenth Goldfish

4.6 16
by Jennifer L. Holm

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Believe in the possible . . . with this "warm, witty, and wise" New York Times bestselling novel from 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 missesSee more details below


Believe in the possible . . . with this "warm, witty, and wise" New York Times bestselling novel from 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 pimply boy 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

"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


From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

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
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.
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."

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.
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)

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sold by:
Random House
Sales rank:
550L (what's this?)
File size:
4 MB
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

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