The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm Book Review

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Release Date: August 26, 2014

Eleven-year-old Ellie's grandfather has spent his life searching for a way to stop or even reverse aging. Everyone in the scientific community think he is a crackpot. Then one day her grandfather shows up, but instead of being a grumpy old man, he is a grumpy thirteen-year-old. He is bossy, cranky, and desperate to get back into his lab and collect his research. With the help of one the goth kids from school, Ellie tries to help her grandfather, but as she learns more and more about science, she also begins to wonder if reverse aging is really a good thing.

What's the difference between an cranky old man and a grumpy teenager? Not much apparently. Although he grumbles about how his daughter dresses, his other complaints feel very--teenagery. Don't let this preposterous idea of the fountain of youth fool you though, this little book packs a rather thought provoking punch. Ellie begins to think rather existentially about the consequences of anti-aging and not growing up. Honestly, I was surprised that I liked this aspect of the story because I was the kind of child who resisted growing up. My favorite book was (and is) Peter Pan and I desperately wanted Peter Pan to fly into my window and take me away so I wouldn't have to grow up. That said, I think Ellie's conclusion that growing up is important was nice although perhaps missing the point. Her grandfather didn't seem to be concerned about children not growing up, he just wanted to reverse the process once they got older. There is also the assumption by Ellie that if she doesn't age she won't get to experience life, which also seems flawed, but understandable from an eleven-year-old's perspective.

But let's talk about the best part. Science. This is a book that is just seeped in science and a little girl who is slowly falling in love with it. She is learning about the famous scientists of history, the truth behind their stories, women in science and that was really the best part. We have the grandfather who only loves science, seeing the arts as frivolous and a waste of potential. Ellie's mother is the thespian, who wears colorful clothing and hair to match. Ellie is a beautiful mix of the two. The author even includes a 'For More Research' section for the kids who have had their interest peaked.

A wonderful quick read with a deep message and a perfect place to pique a bit of scientific curiosity.