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!
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!