The Fourteenth Goldfish

fourteenthgoldfishWritten by Jennifer L. Holm

Ellie is just starting 6th grade and is floating and lost now that her best friend has moved on to new interests and people. One night her mom returns home with a strangely familiar teenage boy dressed like an old man who is bossing her mom around. Ellie’s scientist grandfather discovered a way to reverse aging and tested it on himself, then was thrown out of his own lab by security as a teen intruder. Now he must live and go to middle school with Ellie, posing as her long-lost cousin while covertly trying to continue his research to win a Nobel Prize.

This is a humorous and relatable story of a girl trying to figure out her interests and relationships as childhood begins to wane, and finding an unlikely friend in her grandfather. It is also a tempered celebration of science, and a just-barely science fiction novel firmly planted in the contemporary world. The writing style is concise and accessible, and so would be inviting for even some reluctant readers. The strong science connections and the discussable explorations of topics such as youth and age, life and death, and the promises and risks of scientific discovery could also make this an excellent book for the classroom.

Review by Joshua Whiting, Educational Technology Dept.
Rating: ★★★★½ (4.5 stars)
Interest Level: Grades 3+

This story draws you in from the start with a tale of how 11 year old Ellie’s beloved Goldfish seemingly lived for 6 years. Ellie is a 5th grader faced with changes that are common to many children. However, when a teenage boy shows up at her door things get very interesting. The stranger turns out to be her Grandfather, who is a scientist. Together they plot to recover her Grandfather’s invention that can make the old, young again. There is humor throughout the book, and many opportunities for learning. Children of all ages will enjoy this read.

Review by Robin Hassard, H. R. Driggs Elementary Media Center
Rating: ★★★★✩ (4 stars)
Interest Level: 3rd grade and up

What would you do if your grandpa came to live with you and he was a teenager? In the book The Fourteen Goldfish, eleven-year-old Ellie finds out what it is like to live with her teenaged grandpa. He has discovered the secret to turning back the years; however, in the process he has lost his position as a scientist. Grandpa must live with his daughter, Ellie’s mom, and go to middle school with Ellie. He looks like a teenager; but he still dresses, talks, and acts like Grandpa. And he still wants to parent Ellie’s mom. Ellie doesn’t understand why Grandpa wants to be younger. She wants to age and have the experiences that life has to offer. Ellie and her grandpa have time to interact and get to know each other better. The Fourteenth Goldfish was an enjoyable read.

Review by Diann Cox, Farnsworth Elementary Media Center
Rating: ★★★★★ (5 stars)
Interest Level: Grades 4-8

Author Website:

The Fourteenth Goldfish
Written by Jennifer L. Holm
Random House
208 pages
Release Date: August 26, 2014
ISBN: 9780375870644 (hardcover)

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5 thoughts on “The Fourteenth Goldfish”

  1. I am finally getting kids interested in this book, and I have a hold list for it. The other day a student came in and commented “The fourteenth goldfish isn’t even a fish”. But she still liked the book. It was pretty funny.

  2. I just did not get excited about this book. Not sure why. I’m trying to generate some interest in my students, but so far it isn’t catching on. We may be the only ones! Sounds like everyone else is giving it rave reviews!

  3. There is so much to love about this book. With only 190 pages, and short chapters, it is captivating, and will hold the interest of the most reluctant reader. I especially loved that the main character is a girl who is much more interested in science than sports, like her ex-best friend is, or other traditionally female activities. There is a great message in this book as well. I thought the title was a little strange, but all in all, it is symbolic and quite thought provoking.

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