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, his two PhD’s and a 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 reclaim his research.
Jennifer Holm’s latest book, The Fourteenth Goldfish, takes a historical quest–mankind’s never-ending search for the fountain of youth–and shrinks it down to the problems of one family. As if Ellie didn’t have enough to worry about, what with middle school to navigate and the increasing distance she feels between her best friend, now her grandfather is going to her school! And that turns out to be . . . not so bad.
Quite the opposite of Ellie’s divorced theatrical parents, her grandfather Melvin introduces her to scientific thinking and exploration. Their developing relationship is certainly one of the high points of this book, as is the snarky dialogue between Melvin and Ellie’s mom.
The short chapters move the story along at a brisk pace and the Bay area location adds to the realistic, contemporary setting. This is a fun and engaging book that manages to touch on weighty issues without sounding heavy-handed. Think of it as Tuck Everlasting updated for the 21st century reader.
Jennifer Holm is a genius at packing so much into her deceptively simple prose. 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, find her own passion in life, and above all, believe in the possible.
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. Highly recommended, check out a copy right away!