The Fourteenth Goldfish
by Emily Holm (2014)
A Sweet Spot, Intermediate, and Middle School title.
Also available in Spanish.
What would you do if you discovered your grandfather had turned into a 13-year-old wise-cracking kid?
Grandpa Melvin is a scientist and he’s discovered a cure for aging. (It involves jellyfish.) He appears on his estranged daughter’s doorstep, looking for help breaking into his old lab and to recover his research. He ends up enrolled in middle school with his 11-year-old granddaughter, Ellie!
For Ellie, this is all head-spinning, bizarre, and challenging. Grandpa Melvin has always been prickly, but he’s also iconoclastic and wise. He challenges Ellie’s notions of what to worry about and what to value. And he frequently peddles gnomic advice from famous scientists. Not their inventions or discoveries, but their wisdom.
Of course, Ellie just wants to be a kid, have friends, and do well in school. But soon, Grandpa Melvin’s quest for eternal youth and scientific fame takes over.
Jennifer L. Holm has written a book with a curious premise that turns out to be heartwarming, endearing, and hilarious. Applying her grandfather’s wisdom, it will be Ellie who will eventually lead him to a new appraisal of the importance of youth and of old age.
Ellie eventually learns to appreciate an awful lot of science – and readers will learn to appreciate it, too. The science is not heavy-handed. It goes down easy and it’s fun! And Ellie gets a lot of help from a new friend, Raj, the one person who actually likes the kid version Grandpa Melvin. (Raj loves science, too.)
Holm (via Grandpa Melvin) shares Robert Oppenheimer’s famous appraisal of the atomic bomb which also serves as a window into The Fourteenth Goldfish:
“We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed. A few people cried. Most people were silent.”
Ellie is in the middle of it all. She’s a participant. She is active, not silent. And everyone’s world will be different – better – after going on the journey to the resolution of Grandpa Melvin’s age-old search for the fountain of youth.