The Fourteenth Goldfish

by Jennifer L. Holm

Paperback, 2016



Local notes

PB Hol


Yearling (2016), Edition: Dgs, 240 pages


Ellie's scientist grandfather has discovered a way to reverse aging, and consequently has turned into a teenager--which makes for complicated relationships when he moves in with Ellie and her mother, his daughter.

Original language


Physical description

240 p.; 5.16 inches


0375871144 / 9780375871146



User reviews

LibraryThing member fingerpost
What an odd book. This is a light, funny, quick read, yet the real subject matter is life, death and aging. This humorously titled book asks the deep philosophical question, "If you could live forever, would you want to?"
Ellie lives with her divorcee mother, who is now dating again. Her mother is still on friendly terms with Ellie's father, so she sees him regularly. Both parents are the artsy type. Her maternal grandfather however, is a semi-famous scientist. A 73-year-old crochety old man who - as the book opens - has shown up on their doorstep in the body of a 14-year-old boy. He has actually discovered how to reverse aging, and tested it on himself. Now in this teenage body, but still with his old man scientist brain, he must enroll in middle school with Ellie, pretending to be her "cousin" Melvin. Only Ellie, her mother, and very soon her friend Raj, know the truth of who Melvin is. The actual plot largely involves Melvin's efforts to get a jellyfish from the laboratory where he did his work, but in which he cannot go as a 14-year-old. The real meat of the story, however, is thoughts on aging and death. There is also a fair amount of praise for science, and the thought that science itself is a noble vocation or avocation. But science has no moral stance. What is learned from science can be good, or bad, or most frequently both, depending on what is done with the knowledge.… (more)
LibraryThing member acargile
The Fourteenth Goldfish y Jennifer L. Holm tells of a girl learning about possibilities, both for good and for power.

Ellie's life is changing and she's not happy about it. Her best friend is trying out for the volleyball team, so she has new friends and a busy schedule. Her goldfish also dies. Thankfully, Ellie's grandfather moves in with them about the same time, so she has plenty to keep her occupied. She's much like her grandfather, for she likes science. He makes her realize that she has many talents that are like his. She begins to see possibilities and interest in life surrounding her at the microscopic level. She also meets a goth kid named Raj, who is pretty cool. He helps Ellie's grandfather and enjoys hanging out with Ellie because they are both happy with who they are.

I like Ellie because she isn't the typical fiction teen. She is upset that her best friend is hanging out with others, but she doesn't whine and cry about it. She doesn't wallow in angst or act up. She just grows up without drama. She accepts change even if she doesn't like it, approaching it scientifically as the circle of life--things change and they should. I also like that her parents get along even though they are divorced. It's a pretty happy book with a valid point about life. This novel is fairly short, so it's a nice afternoon reading experience.
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LibraryThing member howifeelaboutbooks
An interesting middle grade book about Ellie, a girl whose scientist grandfather discovers eternal youth. Since he looks like a teenager, not an old man, he has to move in with Ellie and her mother, and go to middle school. There’s an emphasis on Ellie discovering science and loving it, and I, in turn, love THAT! The ending makes the book seem like the first in a series, and I really hope the focus stays on Ellie becoming a scientist.… (more)
LibraryThing member Robinsonstef
Ellie's kindergarten teacher gave each kid in the class a goldfish. It wasn't long before everyone's fish died, but not Ellie's. Hers didn't pass away until she was eleven. Only then did she find out that there hadn't been one fish, but thirteen. Her mom had simply bought her another fish every time one died. Ellie's fish is gone, and she's in a new grade, at a new school. Her best friend has moved on to a different crowd and Ellie isn't really sure where she fits in anymore. When a strange teenage boy shows up at her apartment she can't help feeling that he reminds her of someone. Ellie almost can't believe it when she finds out the teenage boy is really her grandfather. He has found a way to stop getting older and start getting younger. Of course, he wants to be recorded in the history books for his scientific breakthrough. Unfortunately, he's having trouble getting what he needs out of his lab, now that he's about fifty years younger. Plus, being a "teen" again, he's back at school so he doesn't get in trouble for truancy. Will Ellie's grandfather make a scientific name for himself? What will it be like for her to go to school with her grandfather? Is being able to stop aging something we should strive for? You will have to read this book to find out what Ellie thinks about it all.

I've read a few books by Jennifer L. Holm and enjoyed them all, so I was excited to read The Fourteenth Goldfish. I didn't know what to expect, but I fell into the story. I was able to relate to the main character, and I liked her voice. I thought it was unique for a kindergarten teacher to give kids a goldfish so they could learn about death. I had never heard of anyone doing that before. It was interesting to watch Ellie and her grandfather's relationship develop now that they were close to the same age. I can see how going back to middle school with the mind of someone close to seventy would have a big effect on all the social struggles most people are going through. I enjoyed this book because it made me think about scientific discovery and the impact that different things have on us. I would recommend it to anyone in fourth grade and up who likes realistic fiction and science. It will definitely make you think about what it means to get older.
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LibraryThing member Perednia
Ellie Cruz is not having the best 6th grade year. Middle school is no fun: “Middle school is like one of those highway restrooms in the middle of nowhere. It’s dirty and smelly and it’s crowded with strange people.” Her best friend plays volleyball and doesn’t have time for her. But that’s nothing compared to the night her mom brings home a teenage boy.

It’s her estranged grandfather. Melvin is a brilliant scientist who has found a way to turn himself back into a teenager. And boy is her mother mad. She treats him like a middle-schooler and he wants to ask her boyfriend about his intentions.

Ellie discovers she has more in common with her grandfather than she thought as her love of puzzles fits in with his idea that scientists never give up “because they believe in the possible. … That it’s possible to find a cure for polio. That it’s possible to sequence the human genome. That it’s possible to find a way to reverse aging.”

The fast-paced novel includes Ellie, her grandfather and their new friend Raj trying to break into her grandfather’s old lab. But the novel includes the ups and downs of science, too, like what happened after Oppenheimer and crew were successful in the Manhattan Project. And how one person can grow old gracefully while another finds out there are exciting new possibilities out there.

Holm’s father, a WWII navy vet who became a pediatrician, inspired the book with his love of science and curiosity. That influence resulted in a humorous, highly accessible novel that sneaks in ideas without being pedantic.
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LibraryThing member celesteporche
After decades of research, Ellie's grouchy old scientist grandfather has finally developed a way to reverse the aging process, and turns himself into a polyester pants wearing, wine drinking, Chinese take-out loving 14 year old boy. This hilarious middle grade novel will having you laughing from start to finish.
LibraryThing member librarian1204
Excellent book. So much to it for kids and adults. Lessons to be learned. I can see this book provoking many discussions, scientific and philosophical. Upper elementary school. Great characters and some very funny situations and dialogue.
Read from NetGalley.
LibraryThing member Beverlylynnt
Who or what was the fourteenth goldfish? Well, the first thirteen were goldfish, of course. But the fourteenth was the impossible made possible, at least in this story.

Ellie had just entered the sixth grade. Everything was different yet very much the same--a different building and some new students but with the same attitudes she'd left behind. She felt like a nobody. She still sat alone for lunch. Even her childhood best friend had drifted away when her interest was snagged by volleyball.

Then one day a new boy about Ellie's age came home with her mom. Lissa was the school drama teacher; Ellie was used to students coming home with her. But this was not a typical drama student. His name was Melvin and he looked strangely familiar. He wore clothes we would associate with a 70-year-old man. He talked to her mother as if he knew her well. He reminded Ellie of her grandfather, who lived close by but whom they didn't see often because he and her mom didn't see eye-to-eye on much. He was a scientist. Her mom was an artist. Suddenly life became very interesting. Melvin was her grandfather in a thirteen-year-old's body.

Perhaps because of her age, or maybe because of her grandfather's influence, Ellie began to see the world in a different way. Melvin was interesting to talk to. He taught her about science and history--how big changes came to the world through inventions and discoveries. But the learning was a two-way street. Marvin had gotten stuck in a rut. He wasn't thinking of the consequences of the experiment that allowed him to reverse aging. Frankly, he thought like a 76-year-old man. He needed fresh perspective, which is exactly what he got living with his daughter and granddaughter, forced to attend school with Ellie. Now, Ellie was a thinker, and she challenged him. In the end, all three learned valuable lessons from each other. Ahead of them, life was filled with possibilities.

The author writes this story from Ellie's perspective. The humor is quirky, and sure to be enjoyed by middle school readers who like the off-the-wall type of viewpoint. The chapters are short and simple. Some of the chapters seem pointless and don't move the story along very well, yet set the tone just the same. The reading level is low for a middle grade book so that I believe a younger good reader would enjoy it as well. There is no crude language in the book. Bullying is not an issue in this volume, and the student disparity is only lightly touched on. The book is written for entertainment purposes, not overly focused on the tough issues of life.

The author herself grew up in a home where science was a given. Both her parents were in the medical field. It wasn't unusual for the cottage cheese and a bacterial culture growing in a petri dish to be side by side in the refrigerator. It was natural for her to incorporate a love of science into her writing as she did in this book. The theme is not overly intrusive or pushy. The author just uses Ellie's natural curiosity and growing awareness of what the life of a scientist could be like to grow her character. It's good writing. This is a book I would love a young scientist-to-be to read.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from NetGalley, on behalf of Random House Books for Young Readers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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LibraryThing member rvhatha
This was an entertaining middle-grades book, kind of in the vein of "Freaky Friday," except here the generation switch happens when the protagonist Ellie's grandfather, a scientist, engineers a youth serum out of a rare jellyfish and devolves into a 14-year-old. When he moves in with Ellie and her mom, Ellie begins to understand why her mother and her grandfather have been estranged: her grandfather is high maintenance, to say the least, although his passion for science is contagious. Ellie and her new friend Raj are enlisted to help Grandpa Melvin smuggle the jellyfish out of his former lab--not an easy task for three middle schoolers.

Jennifer Holm does a nice job of developing the story here. After Melvin lectures Ellie about his heroes Jonas Salk and Robert Oppenheimer, she's intrigued enough to do some research into their work. Slowly, she begins to understand that science is far more dramatic and complex than she previously thought it was--and after she learns about the decimation of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, she also begins to question whether science-for-the-sake-of-science is really ethical.

Holm also develops the relationships between the characters well; over the course of the book, Ellie slowly lets go of her childhood BFF Brianna, who's moved on to other interests, and begins to see that middle school can be bearable without her. And Ellie's mother also learns to let go of old resentments and trust in the future, too.

There's a cliffhanger at the end here that suggests that there might be a sequel; it will be interesting to see how Holm continues to develop her characters in a future book, since there are some real loose ends at the end of this one.

NOTE: I received this book as a free e-ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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LibraryThing member LibStaff2
Wow! A great book about the cycle of life, the importance of family and friends, and possibilities. I love that the MC is a girl interested in science. And that she not only learns a few things from her grandfather, but teaches him some things in return. Witty and fun, recommended to all.

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LibraryThing member melissarochelle
Read from August 30 to 31, 2014

I LOVED this book and can't wait to share it with my daughter (one day) and all of the other tween girls (that will eventually be) in my life. Like any good book, this one made me seek out more info -- I wanted to know more about the scientists mentioned. Plus a middle school girl interested in science? Yes! Reading this made me wish I were a scientist...Holm did a great job of making science interesting and also presenting an ethical dilemma.… (more)
LibraryThing member kgriffith
The Fourteenth Goldfish provides a lighthearted setting for a look at how science can be used for good or ill, and how some discoveries hold the potential for both. The characters are well developed for the reading level and length, and the plot fast-paced enough that this would be a good offering for a reluctant reader.
LibraryThing member paula-childrenslib
Ellie's scientist grandfather has discovered a way to reverse aging, and consequently has turned into a teenager--which makes for complicated relationships when he moves in with Ellie and her mother, his daughter.
LibraryThing member Bookworm_Lisa
I loved this middle grade book about dealing with change and the inevitability of change!

Ellie's life is undergoing changes that she isn't happy about. Her best friend is moving on to other friends. She has left fifth grade and is now in sixth attending a middle school. Her grandfather is now living with them as a teenager and she found out her goldfish hasn't lived for seven years. It has been replaced several times by a concerned mother.

There are many great lessons that can be taken away from this book. One is that change isn't a bad thing. Ellie's life didn't shatter when her best friend found new friends. Ellie learned that she can make new friends and her life can still be good and fun. She noticed people around her and realized that even though they may look different, each is unique and can offer good things to her life.

The goldfish analogy was perfect. She found the thirteenth goldfish belly up in her tank. She discovered it wasn't the original. The lesson she learned about the life cycle was wonderful. Life is meant for plants, people, animals, etc to grow and fulfill a role on Earth. To change the pattern doesn't make the world a better place. It adds uncertainty and opens up many scenarios that would not be helpful to the world as a whole.

I highly recommend this book not just to children, but to everyone who enjoys a good story.
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LibraryThing member knitwit2
Ellie is a little surprised when her mother brings home a teenaged boy, and the surprises just keep coming once she learns that this teenager is her grandfather! He is a scientist who has realized his lifelong goal to reverse aging! Which is thrilling but presents a number of challenges for Eliie and her mom. As teenagers grandfathers tend to be more than a little offbeat!
Ellie and her grandfather get to know each other as they attend middle school together and embark on a slightly illegal quest to retrieve his research materials from the lab that no longer recognizes him! Together they grapple with big ethical questions, especially the responsibility of a scientist to deal with the consequences of their discoveries. Jennifer Holm sneakily teaches the reader about scientists such as Marie Curie, Jonas Salk, and Robert Oppenheimer. A fun read with a little education thrown in.
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LibraryThing member Whisper1
Ellie is entering sixth grade and things are changing. The most dramatic change is the fact that her scientist grandfather miraculously found a discovery to physically regress. He is now Ellie's age. Seeking shelter with his daughter (Ellie's mother), Ellie rides the school bus with her grandfather. And, Ellie's mother now becomes a mother figure to her father.

A Geek and proud of it, he never tries to fit in. When he is locked out of his laboratory, he seeks the aid of a classmate.

When Ellie was very young, she won a goldfish at the carnival. Believing that the Goldfish had thirteen lives because it never died, she had no idea that her parents simply replaced a living fish with the dead one.

Seeking an award for his incredible discovery, her grandfather is analogous to the fourteenth goldfish. It will live on, but there are consequences.

Examining the repercussions of things that can be done, but perhaps should not be accomplished, Ellie learns that life has a cycle and should be respected.
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LibraryThing member foggidawn
Ellie's grandfather is a scientist. He's cranky, particular, and hoards packets of soy sauce when they visit the Chinese restaurant. What Ellie does not expect is that one day he will turn up at her house as a teenage boy, having discovered a cure for aging using cells from a rare jellyfish. Grandpa Melvin, now looking like an oddly-dressed thirteen-year-old, is discovering that being a teenager again has its drawbacks -- most notably, he can't get into his lab any more to continue working on his experiments. Ellie, on the other hand, is discovering the drawbacks of adolescence for the first time, as her best friend discovers new interests that don't include Ellie. Then again, Ellie is discovering new interests of her own: when Grandpa Melvin talks about science, it's a lot more interesting than she ever realized before. With the help of a new friend from school, Ellie and Grandpa Melvin hatch a plan to rescue Grandpa Melvin's experiments from his lab so he can continue his work. But Ellie is starting to wonder if there might be serious consequences to Grandpa Melvin's discovery. Is helping him continue to experiment really the best thing to do?

This story has a lot of good things going for it: it's a fast, funny read that incorporates a lot of science without becoming didactic. I thought it had just a couple of weaknesses, all related to the ending, which I don't want to give away here. So, if you find the summary intriguing, you will just have to read it and tell me whether you buy what happens at the end of the book, or if you (like me) were expecting a different outcome based on certain clues in the text. But even though I'm not a hundred percent sold on the ending, I thought this was an excellent book, and I'll be recommending it to kids at my library.
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LibraryThing member EuronerdLibrarian
Even though the premise is an outlandish one (but also very fun), Holm tells a simple, uncomplicated story, one of family and identity, age and even ethical responsibility. Holm’s tone is a light-hearted one, and she sprinkles humor throughout. I loved Essie. She’s sweet and introspective. Through her adventures with her grandfather, Essie discovers an interest in science. She finds friends and a newfound confidence in the face of the changes of middle school. The chapters are very short, and I was surprised to find that it was 100 pages because it went so quickly. Very good.… (more)
LibraryThing member amydelpo
Sweet, funny -- nothing inappropriate. Good for both elementary and middle.
LibraryThing member zzshupinga
ARC provided by NetGalley

Ellie has never liked change much. Eleven years old she already misses a lot of things. Fifth grade. Her old best friend. Even her goldfish. But one day a strange boy shows up. He’s a wee bit bossy, a lot cranky, and kinda looks like...her grandfather?? He’s always been obsessed with immortality, but could he have finally pulled it off? I mean...he couldn’t...could he?

Author Jennifer Holm, known for her Baby Mouse series, breaks new ground with a story with humor and heart that celebrates science and explores life, death, family, friendship, and possibility of magic. On the surface the book may seem to be just another story in the vein of Freaky Friday, or maybe even something that’s too deep for young readers to understand...but it is none of these. Holm has crafted a story that accurately captures the feelings that so many of us had at that age and wondering, what the heck do we do?? Even more so Holm’s story will likely spark an interest in science, history, discovery, and possibilities. I give the book 3 out of 5 stars.
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LibraryThing member lillibrary
Thanks to NetGalley for the digital ARC.

Sixth-grader Ellie is a perceptive and bright narrator who brings an unbiased and comic look at the crazy situation her family is thrown into when her grandfather discovers an antidote to aging and turns himself into a teenager. Now, despite his Harvard education and fan club in Finland, cranky grandfather Melvin is going back to middle school, all the while scheming with Ellie on the best way to break into his lab and recover his research.

Jennifer Holm is a genius at packing so much into her deceptively simple prose. The story is fun and engaging, and manages to touch on weighty issues without sounding heavy-handed. Her characters are at once familiar and wholly original - from Ellie's flamboyant drama teacher mom, to her scientist grandfather, and even Ellie herself, who's learning what it means to grow up even as her grandfather seeks to reverse aging.

A lovely book, warm and sentimental in the best way, that explores what it is to grow up and grow old, and what can be learned from doing both.
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LibraryThing member elenchus
Read aloud over several weeks, between several other books separately by R and me. As she said approvingly: "Not a great book, but a really good idea." The whacky premise is used for serious consideration of how science works, how kids and parents relate to one another throughout their lives. Holm still leaves plenty of room for antics like a pizza delivery staged to distract from a lab break-in.

It worked as an evening read probably because it was so different from either of our standard interests.
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LibraryThing member jnmwheels
A mad scientist who invents the fountain of youth, suffers from teenage angst and acne. Delivering an interesting mix of humor and science, this book is sure to please youngsters who enjoy jumping into the craziness to fiction while uncovering the circle of life.
LibraryThing member ddbrown201
Very good! Imagine having your grandfather show up at your house - in the body of a teenager.
LibraryThing member ewyatt
Ellie is starting sixth grade when suddenly this sullen, grouchy teenager shows up at her house with her mom. He seems oddly familiar until she figures out it is her grandfather who has invented a drug to "cure old age".
He is determined to get back into his office to get the information that he is certain will win him the Nobel Prize. Ellie is dealing with friend changes and realizing that she thinks science is really cool.
The book is peppered with information about real scientists and their work.
A touching story with dynamic characters.
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(168 ratings; 3.9)
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