Jennifer L. Holm’s The Fourteenth Goldfish is a quick and enjoyable middle grade novel. Ellie begins sixth grade with some apprehension–she is not a big fan of change and her best friend has almost abandoned her for the volleyball team. And then…her mom brings home a strangely familiar 13-year-old boy who turns out to be Ellie’s grandfather, Melvin! It seems he has been working with an anti-aging drug derived from a rare jellyfish and tried it on himself. Melvin, Ellie, and Ellie’s new friend,Raj, get into a few scrapes trying to break into Melvin’s old lab. And by the book’s end, Ellie helps her grandfather realize that perhaps the world is not ready for his discovery. A strength of this book is that it is a gentle introduction to the science fiction genre, challenging readers to think about the implications of tampering with the aging process without overwhelming them. Readers could then go on to books like Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Turnabout or Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies (more YA than middle grade).
Check out this great trailer/introduction from Jennifer L. Holm.