cover image The Fourteenth Goldfish

The Fourteenth Goldfish

Jennifer L. Holm. Random, $16.99 (208p) ISBN 978-0-375-87064-4

Middle school doesn’t start smoothly for 11-year-old Ellie, whose best friend finds her passion (volleyball) and new teammates to eat lunch with, while Ellie flounders, uninterested in sports or her parents’ avocation, theater. A startling addition to the household helps Ellie get her groove back when Grandpa Melvin, a scientist, moves in after engineering a cure for aging (the regenerative properties of jellyfish are involved) and transforming himself into a teenage boy. Though Melvin dresses and acts like the crotchety old man he was, he and Ellie bond over spirited discussions about Jonas Salk, Robert Oppenheimer, the possibilities of science, and the moral questions scientific advances can raise. Though the subject matter has a lot of intellectual heft, the writing has Holm’s ever-present light touch. The small cast, which refreshingly includes divorced parents who treat each other respectfully, is so well realized that the farfetched aspects of the plot seem almost plausible. This is top-notch middle-grade fiction with a meaty dilemma, humor, and an ending that leaves room for the possibility of a sequel. Ages 8–12. Agent: Jill Grinberg, Grinberg Literary Management. (Aug.)