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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

The Fourteenth Goldfish

Fourteenth GoldfishThe versatile Jennifer L. Holm pens a fantasy this time around, but it’s a story suffused with humor and science, deftly asking a mind-blowing question: is it a good thing to grow old?

So what happens when a 13-year-old boy shows up on your doorstep, arguing with your mom, who invites him in, and it turns out you’re related to this kid, only a much older version of him?

Eleven-year-old Ellie’s grandfather is the famous scientist Melvin Sagarsky (he has a fan club in Finland), who has invented an age-altering substance that he’s used on himself as his first human experiment. When he shows up on her mom’s doorstep, the younger version of Melvin is still the same self-absorbed, rule-spouting, science-focused grandfather who hasn’t visited often because he and his daughter are so different in temperament.

A 13-year-old boy can’t stay by himself, or drive, or buy groceries, or not go to school, so they are suddenly a family. Grandfather opens Ellie’s eyes to the cool aspects of science and the celebrity scientists and she discovers she likes science. Ellie starts noticing things around her in a different way and reading about the lives of the people who changed the world.

Will her grandfather be one of those people? Has he discovered a fountain of youth? Will he ever see eye-to-eye with Ellie’s drama teacher mother?

The Fourteenth Goldfish works on many levels, but I admire it because it’s so readable even while it’s posing big questions. The book is funny, has good pacing, and the characters—all of them, even Grandfather—are so likeable that you’ll close the book wondering what happens next.

The Fourteenth Goldfish
Jennifer L. Holm
Random House Books for Young Readers
August 26, 2014

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