The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm
Expected Publication August 26th 2014
by Random House Books for Young Readers
Source: In exchange for an honest review, an ARC was received from the publisher for free via NetGalley.
Ellie is trying to navigate her way through middle school and understand why her best friend has all these new friends and is now so into volleyball. At the same time, Grandpa Melvin Herbert Sagarsky has engineered a way to "reverse senescence through cellular regeneration," in other words, he has figured out how to reverse aging using a jellyfish. So, when Ellie's mom brings home this thirteen old boy who talks and acts like her grandpa, Ellie has a hard time believing it could really be him. Yet, this boy appears to be the same bossy, cranky person that Ellie's grandpa always was and slowly he wins her over. But now, grandpa wants Ellie's help to break into his former lab to try and get back all of his research and the jellyfish he left behind.
I love a story where everything comes full circle and all the pieces of the puzzle seem to seamlessly come into place. One where Holm relates the story of how Ellie's kindergarten teacher gave out a goldfish to her students, but when the goldfish dies, her mom gives her a new one, and another, and another, until she has had thirteen goldfish in all. Yet this little detail wraps into conveying the cycle of life. A story where the reader is prompted to think about believing in the possible and at the same time, just because something is possible does it make it right? I so loved the revelations that Ellie undergoes as she begins to see her grandfather as a person and not just as an older person. I also enjoyed the distinctions in young, middle-aged and older adult that Holm conveys in the characters of Ellie, her mom and her grandfather. I love how Grandpa Melvin teaches Ellie that scientists use their eyes and power of observation and imparts his knowledge about famous scientists like Jonas, Salk, Marie Curie, Galileo, Oppenheimer and Louis Pasteur in a way that inspires the readers interest in science. Most of all, I love how Ellie is inspired to learn from her grandfather and how he shows her that cooking is science too giving her insights into who her grandmother was (The fuzzy slippers were my favorite part). Overall, it is also the beautiful quotes like "scientists never give up. They keep trying because they believe in the possible" and my favorite quote, "life is precious and we don't realize that at the time. But maybe life's also precious because it doesn't last forever. Like an amusement park ride. The roller coaster is exciting the first time. But would it be as fun if you did it again and again and again?" Overall, a beautiful story that addressees coming of age, family ties and would easily appeal to readers of all ages. The bonus addition of famous scientists woven into the story as well as the authors note relating her inspiration for the story were fascinating to read.
All quotes were taken from an uncorrected proof. My review copy was generously provided by Random House Children's.