The Fourteenth Goldfish

On August 26th, The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm will be released. (Once again, I was lucky enough to read an ARC courtesy of NetGalley.) Well, let me go ahead and tell my librarian friends who work with upper elementary and middle grade readers that this books is a must purchase for your collections! The Fourteenth Goldfish is highly entertaining, delivers an important message, offers opportunities for further research, and shows readers just how cool science can be. I’m hoping to use this book as a read-aloud with several classes in my school this year, and I’m already looking forward to the discussions it will generate.

Things were so much simpler for Ellie in elementary school. She didn’t have to worry about where to sit in the cafeteria, losing her best friend, or all the other changes middle school brings. Well, soon Ellie will have one more change…and this one will rock her entire world.

One day, Ellie’s mom brings home a strange yet oddly familiar boy. He bears a striking resemblance to her grandfather, but Ellie doesn’t know of any long-lost relatives who would just show up all of a sudden. So who is this odd, crotchety, young boy?

Well, as it turns out, this boy actually is Ellie’s grandfather, Melvin. Through his research with jellyfish, he seems to have found the “cure” for aging, and this seventy-six year old man now looks like a teenager. (He still acts like an old man, though.) Melvin shares his discovery with Ellie and enlists her help in retrieving the research that he’s sure will win him a Nobel Prize.

Ellie is intrigued by her grandfather’s work, but, the more she learns about science and what happens after important discoveries–like Oppenheimer’s work on the atomic bomb–the more she wonders if Melvin’s breakthrough is a good thing. Does the world really need a cure for aging? What would be the consequences if such a thing were available?

As Ellie explores the scientific possibilities with her grandfather, she’s also coming to grips the changes in her own life. Maybe it’s okay that she’s letting go of old friends and making new ones. Moving on is a part of life, right? Now, all she needs to do is convince her grandfather of that…


Like I mentioned previously, I really want to use this book as a read-aloud, particularly with my fifth grade students. My school’s major focus this year is science, and I think The Fourteenth Goldfish could really serve as a catalyst for some intriguing conversations and inquiry-based science projects with my students.

Science aside, The Fourteenth Goldfish also teaches readers important lessons on moving forward, even when things don’t go the way we want them to. Ellie’s relationship with her best friend just wasn’t the same when they reached middle school. Was she sad about this? Yes, but she worked to make new friends who shared her interests. That’s something even adults–like myself–can learn from. Ellie’s grandfather also needed to learn the importance of moving forward instead of looking back, and I think Ellie definitely helped him with that.

If I haven’t made it perfectly clear already, I adore The Fourteenth Goldfish, and I think this book is a necessary purchase for any school or public library that serves upper elementary and middle grades. I hope my students (and teachers) love it as much as I do!

For more information on The Fourteenth Goldfish or other fabulous books by Jennifer L. Holm, check out the author’s website or Twitter.

To learn a little more about The Fourteenth Goldfish from Jennifer Holm herself, check out this cool video on YouTube. Enjoy, and believe in the possible!

The Death Cure

Spoilers ahead!  If you haven’t read James Dashner’s The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials, do that before continuing with this post.  This post will focus on the third book in this trilogy, The Death Cure.  If you haven’t read the first two books, I promise I will spoil things for you!

The Death Cure picks up immediately after the events of The Scorch Trials. Thomas is in isolation at the WICKED compound, hoping for a chance to escape.  He doesn’t know what he’ll do or where he’ll go if he gets his chance, but he knows he has to get away from WICKED.  They are not to be trusted.

Eventually, Thomas’ moment comes, and he, along with several of his friends, escape WICKED and begin a journey to find answers.  They must also face the fact that one of them has the Flare, a brain-eating disease that transforms normal people into raving maniacs.  Can they find help–or even a cure–before a dear friend becomes a dreaded Crank?

Thomas and company make their way to Denver, a city that should be a safe haven for them.  But something is not quite right when they arrive.  No one in this city will make eye contact, people are walking around with cloth or masks over their faces.  Thomas was led to believe that the Flare was not present in Denver, but why are so many people acting as if it’s a real threat?  And why are those immune to the Flare–like Thomas and some of his friends–disappearing by the dozens?  Has WICKED infiltrated this supposedly safe city, or is someone else playing games with people’s lives?  What could the possible end game be?

As Thomas and his friends slowly uncover the truth behind all the lies, it becomes ever clearer that there are no winners here.  Lies abound from every side, and Thomas must trust his instincts to keep himself and everyone he loves alive.  He has to decide who to believe and if anything he’s been told by WICKED could ever be true, including the likelihood of a cure for the Flare.  Even if a cure is possible, millions of people will die.  And it seems that at least one person may have to be sacrificed to make a possible cure into a reality.  Will Thomas allow that to happen?  Can he face losing even one more person if it means the salvation of the human race?  The answers are not easy, but Thomas must face them if he has any hope of retaining his sanity, his life, or the fate of humankind. 

Read The Death Cure by James Dashner to learn that sometimes the only way to cure a disease is to kill it.

This has not been my best post on a book, and I’m sorry for that.  In my defense, however, it is impossible to capture everything that occurs in this book, even in this whole series.  The Death Cure is a quick read, but it is action-packed, and so much happens to these characters that I couldn’t possibly cram it all into one blog post.  I will say that the ending was somewhat satisfying, even if it seems that it was all part of a master plan.  I was sad that several characters I came to like in this series didn’t make it to the end.  (No, I won’t tell you which ones.)  On the other hand, I was kind of happy that a few characters I had come to despise didn’t make it, either.  You win some, you lose some.  Overall, I did enjoy this series, and I hope you will, too.

If you’d like to read more about The Maze Runner trilogy and author James Dashner, I encourage you to visit  Not too long ago, an announcement was made to this site that we can expect a prequel to The Maze Runner.  It’s called The Kill Order and will be released sometime in 2012.  Apparently, this story will tell us about the events that led to the creation of WICKED and the maze.  It focuses on the sun flares that hammered the earth and the disease that hit mankind shortly thereafter.  Doesn’t really sound like an uplifting story, does it?  But I’m sure it will be just as captivating as The Maze Runner trilogy.  I, for one, am eager to learn more about how everything started.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox

Mary E. Pearson’s The Adoration of Jenna Fox is one weird book…but in a good way.  Jenna Fox is seventeen, but she doesn’t really know who she is.  She has been in a coma for a year, and she only knows what her parents have told her.  Her grandmother appears to despise her, Jenna has little to no contact with the world outside her family’s new house, and her only connection with the girl she used to be comes in the form of sixteen years’ worth of home movies.

Gradually, though, Jenna begins to reclaim pieces of her memory and what led her to her current situation.  She knows she was in what should have been a fatal accident and that her parents broke nearly every scientific law known to man to ensure her survival.  What really happened to her?  Will anyone find out?  What or who is Jenna Fox, and why couldn’t her parents let her go?

This book paints a possible picture of what the world could look like in the not-too-distant future:  antibiotics becoming ineffective through overuse, pandemic diseases, fighting to preserve pure species of plants and animals, government control over what science can or cannot do, and basically regenerating humans who are on the verge of death.  It’s creepy to think about.

Although I did like this book, the ending was a little too neat for me.  I would have liked to see more conflict.  Also, there is an underlying political message in the book that could turn some readers off.  But I guess that’s just one more way to start some discussions.  I would recommend this book for readers interested in science and where it could or should take us in the future.