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The Fourteenth Goldfish Library Binding – August 26, 2014
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From 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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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."
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Top customer reviews
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Now, let's talk about the book! Ellie and Melvin are some of the most interesting people I've met in a while. Ellie's life is in flux. Sixth grade isn't going so well since her best friend is slowly becoming her ex-best friend. Things get even weirder one night when her mother comes home with a teenage boy who bears a strong resemblance to her grandfather, Melvin. Turns out he is her grandfather Melvin, a scientist who has devoted years of research to searching for the fountain of youth -- and, evidently, he's found it.
Holm has a talent for characterization, and she's crafted some doozies with Ellie and Melvin. Melvin ranks high on my list of coolest grandfathers ever. Given that he's at once a cantankerous old man and a teenager who marches to his own drum, he occupies a place all his own. It's interesting how advanced age creates a non-conformist, individualist attitude that translates into a bizarrely funny yet totally awesome form of swagger. This can be seen in Melvin's fearless fashion sense. Throughout the course of the book, he wears anything from miniature versions of old-man polyester pants, Ellie's pink ponytail holder, and, when he has nothing clean, he even dips into his "mother's" closet.
Ellie's a smart girl in a completely believable way. She's not a geek or a prodigy, but she's always felt a little out of step since her parents -- who've split, albeit amicably -- are both artistic, creative types. When Melvin comes into her life, she discovers that she does share family traits after all. Turns out she likes to cook, and Melvin shows her how things like food and cooking are actually everyday science. He opens her eyes to the possibilities contained in science and the passionate way that scientists question the world around them. In science, Melvin explains, failure is nothing to fear. It's failure that results in answers that can eventually lead to breakthroughs. And scientists are willing to risk failure attempting to prove that what others may believe impossible is, in actuality, possible.
The characters who inhabit the pages of The Fourteenth Goldfish are so alive that suspension of disbelief at the far-fetched premise never presents a problem. Indeed, you accept these people and their world with such alacrity that you allow yourself to become completely submerged. Thematically, Holm manages to defy gravity, using humor to make weighty topics like the ethical ramifications of science and the potential downside when it pushes those limits seem light as a feather. Kids will happily plunge in with Ellie as she discovers her passion and gains both new friends and a deeper understanding of the circle of life. And until they turn the last page, they'll not likely want to come up for air!
Verdict: 4.5 of 5 hearts. A Uniquely Humorous and Human Breakthrough Victory For Science. With its combination of strong characterization and easy humor, Jennifer L. Holm's latest work, The Fourteenth Goldfish, will have kids -- even girls -- seeing science and life through brand new eyes.
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank NetGalley and Random House Books For Young Readers for providing me access to this title. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Most recent customer reviews
Author: Jennifer L Holm
Publisher: Random House Children's
Genre: Children's Fiction...Read more
I loved Melvin and his little old man/teenage boy quirks. And the mom seems so amazing, I started wishing I could live there, too.Read more