The Fourteenth Goldfish
By Jennifer L. Holm
Expected publication August 26, 2014 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Ellie wishes things would stay the same. But one day, when a strange boy shows up, she begins to wonder if change is always a bad thing. Because that strange boy looks an awful lot like her grandfather, a scientist who's been on a quest for immortality. Could it be he's discovered the secret?
I requested this digital galley because Jenni Holm. I mean, really. I adore her. Her books are pretty much always winners for me (I've yet to read them all, a tragedy I really should remedy soon) and she's a lovely person in real life as well (I've seen her speak a few times). So, when I knew she had a new book coming out, I eagerly requested the galley, knowing I'd probably enjoy it and knowing it would get some Newbery buzz.
I think I was right on both accounts. This is a short, quick read, packed with fun characters and really fascinating science. I really enjoyed it, and I've already seen it being thrown around as a Newbery contender. What I enjoyed most about this is that Holm manages to cover quite a few topics in a small number of pages - and she doesn't short any of them either. This book addresses science and the role it should play in our everyday lives, families and how they change, the difficulties of growing up and watching things change around you, and the importance of believing. I'm convinced that Holm is one of the best and most important middle-grade authors currently working - I hope she continues to write for many years to come.
Ellie has a great voice - I fell in love with her almost instantly, and I think middle-grade readers will find her easy to relate to as well. I absolutely loved the other characters, also, particularly Melvin. What a delight he was! My one quibble is that I found it quite difficult to believe that Ellie, by all indications a pretty typical 11-year-old, had never heard of most of the scientists her grandfather references. I don't remember whether or not I knew of them all when I was her age, but it did make me pause for a moment (particularly Marie Curie).
As I said, I loved that Holm was able to cover such a wide variety of topics and still give them each enough page time to merit their inclusion. This is a great book to ignite discussion and I think many teachers are going to enjoy discovering and sharing this one. I also really appreciated Holm's inclusion of suggestions for further research. This is another science-focused book that I think will definitely spark a desire to learn more about the facts. I'll be keeping my eyes open for discussion of this one in mock Newbery groups.
Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.