Monday, August 11, 2014

Against the Grain Book Review: The Fourteenth Goldfish

Premise: Things get strange when Ellie's elderly grandfather shows up at her house as a teenage boy. Grandpa is a scientist and he's discovered a way to reverse aging. Now he's living with Ellie and her mom, and things are very strange.

Title: The Fourteenth Goldfish
Author: Jennifer L. Holm
Pages: 208 pages
Genre: Realistic / Science Fiction
Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Content Appropriate For: Grades 4-7
Format: Digital ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Publication Date: August 26, 2014

Three adjectives that describe this book: fanciful, unique, simple

The Fourteenth Goldfish is getting so much positive buzz! There have been talks of it winning the Newbery, the Goodreads page is glowing, and it was even selected for the 2014 Global Read Aloud. So it feels like blasphemy to say, but I found The Fourteenth Goldfish kind of disappointing. That's why I'm calling this an Against the Grain Book Review - my thinking appears to diverge from what most folks are thinking.

The Fourteenth Goldfish just didn't feel complete to me. It's a really straight-forward, single-plot story so that should make it easy to follow, but there were gaps in the narrative that made me lose track of how much time was passing and how various events were connected. A longer book, maybe from different perspectives, may have worked better.

Still, it was a fun read with some great moments. Grandpa Melvin may be one of my favorite characters in a long time.

People seem to really like the science aspect of this book, but it really disappointed me. Maybe it's because I have worked with researchers on how kids view scientists, but this book reinforced more stereotypes than it combated. However, I love love loved the talk about believing in possibilities and that scientists are passionate people who don't give up.

Overall, The Fourteenth Goldfish may provide a good starting point for classroom conversations about science, scientists, and fuzzy morality.
3.5 stars

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