The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm
Released August 26, 2014.
Eleven-year-old Ellie loves doing puzzles, because the pieces fit together so neatly. She doesn’t like change at all, like the way that her best friend Brianna never talks with her anymore. She lives with her mother in a tiny house with the garage filled with costumes from her job directing high school theater. Her mother wants her to find her own passion, but Ellie isn’t sure that she has one. Then something very strange happens, and her grandfather comes to live with them. But he’s not really himself, instead he’s thirteen years old again! Now Ellie has a “cousin” Melvin who goes to school with her but dresses, talks and thinks just like her grandfather. Could he really have found the key to eternal youth? This is the classic story of growing up, mixed with someone who is trying to grow down.
Holm’s signature light touch is a large part of the success of this novel. Dealing with big issues like aging, death, and growing up, Holm manages to keep the tone light enough to make the reading great fun. She mixes science into the story, clearly displaying her own interest in the subject, but also making sure that the science is just as readable as the story.
She populates her story with great characters from the dramatic mother to Ellie herself who readers will relate to quickly and easily. Melvin is my favorite character in the book, written for pure delight as a great mix of teen boy and aging man. In particular, I love that Holm kept him wearing the same clothes, talking to his daughter in the same way, and relating with teens he meets as if he didn’t resemble them in the least. He’s a brilliant character, a wonderful grandfather, and profoundly funny.
Grab this as a great book to share in a classroom, it has lots to discuss but is immensely readable and serves as a clever entry point to science fiction reading. Also, get this into the hands of Holm fans who are ready for something beyond Babymouse. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Random House and Edelweiss.