The Fourteenth Goldfish

The Fourteenth Goldfish

by Jennifer L. Holm


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Believe in the possible . . . with this New York Times bestseller by three-time Newbery Honor winner Jennifer L. Holm. A perfect read about a child's relationship with her grandfather!
Galileo. Newton. Salk. Oppenheimer. Science can change the world . . . but can it go too far?
Eleven-year-old Ellie has never liked change. She misses fifth grade. She misses her old best friend. She even misses her dearly departed goldfish. Then one day a strange boy shows up. He’s bossy. He’s cranky. And weirdly enough . . . he looks a lot like Ellie’s grandfather, a scientist who’s always been slightly obsessed with immortality. Could this gawky teenager really be Grandpa Melvin? Has he finally found the secret to eternal youth?
With a lighthearted touch and plenty of humor, Jennifer Holm celebrates the wonder of science and explores fascinating questions about life and death, family and friendship, immortality . . . and possibility. Look for EXCLUSIVE NEW MATERIAL in the paperback—including Ellie’s gallery of scientists and other STEM-appropriate features.
“Warm, witty, and wise.” —The New York Times
* “Written in a clean, crisp style, with lively dialogue and wit, this highly accessible novel will find a ready audience.” —Booklist, Starred
* “Top-notch middle-grade fiction.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred
* “Ellie’s memorable journey into the world of science will inspire readers to explore the world around them and celebrate the possible.” —Shelf Awareness, Starred
“Awesomely strange and startlingly true-to-life. It makes you wonder what’s possible.” —Rebecca Stead, Newbery Medal–winning author of When You Reach Me

25 STATE AWARD LISTS including the Sunshine State!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375871146
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 04/05/2016
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 38,113
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

JENNIFER L. HOLM’s father was a pediatrician and she grew up listening to him talk about the wonder of antibiotics and how science could change the world. Today Jennifer is the New York Times bestselling author of three Newbery Honor books, as well as the co-creator of the Babymouse series (an Eisner Award Winner) and the Squish series, both of which she collaborates on with her brother, Matthew Holm. Find out more about her by visiting and look for her on Twitter at @jenniholm.

Read an Excerpt


When I was in preschool, I had a teacher named Starlily. She wore rainbow tie-dyed dresses and was always bringing in cookies that were made with granola and flax and had no taste.

Starlily taught us to sit still at snack time, sneeze into our elbows, and not eat the Play-Doh (which most kids seemed to think was optional). Then one day, she sent all of us home with a goldfish. She got them at ten for a dollar at a pet store. She gave our parents a lecture before sending us off.

"The goldfish will teach your child about the cycle of life." She explained, "Goldfish don't last very long."

I took my goldfish home and named it Goldie like every other kid in the world who thought they were being original. But it turned out that Goldie was kind of original.

Because Goldie didn't die.

Even after all my classmates' fish had gone to the great fishbowl in the sky, Goldie was still alive. Still alive when I started kindergarten. Still alive in first grade. Still alive in second grade and third and fourth. Then finally, last year in fifth grade, I went into the kitchen one morning and saw my fish floating upside down in the bowl.

My mom groaned when I told her.

"He didn't last very long," she said.

"What are you talking about?" I asked. "He lasted seven years!"

She gave me a smile and said, "Ellie, that wasn't the original Goldie. The first fish only lasted two weeks. When he died, I bought another one and put him in the bowl. There've been a lot of fish over the years."

"What number was this one?"

"Unlucky thirteen," she said with a wry look.

"They were all unlucky," I pointed out.

We gave Goldie Thirteen a toilet-bowl funeral and I asked my mom if we could get a dog.

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The Fourteenth Goldfish 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Totally heart touching. "Believe in the possible." -Dr. Melvin Sagarsky, The Fourteenth Goldfish
This_Kid_Reviews_Books More than 1 year ago
Summary – Ellie’s parents keep telling her she needs to find her passion in life, but lately Ellie is only feeling numb. The start of sixth grade is not going well. Her best friend, Brianna, is more interested in the volleyball team than being with Ellie, middle school seems like an alien world, and she just found out that her parents have been replacing her beloved pet goldfish “Goldie” with a new fish for the past seven years every time a “Goldie” died! Things get a lot more complicated when her mom brings home an ornery, pushy, oddly dressed teenage boy who just happens to be Ellie’s scientist grandfather (Melvin) who found a cure for old age, but has been locked out of his lab by its new owners. Will Ellie ever find her passion or at least survive middle school now that her grandfather is enrolled as a student? What I thought – I. LOVED. THIS. BOOK. I loved everything about it. I loved it so much I told my mom to read it (she is a scientist) and she loved it too. I really like that the book isn’t focused on the wacky science experiment that turned Ellie’s grandfather, Melvin, into a teenager, but rather it is focused on Ellie’s struggle to find her “passion,” dealing with growing apart from a friend, and getting closer to her grandfather. The wacky science stuff happens all around all these big topics. Of course I love Melvin. He is so cranky and nerdy it’s awesome! That part of the story is hilarious! I also like that there is real science facts in the book not just the wacky reversing age thing. It also teaches an important lesson about the power of science and how it has to be used wisely (I sound like Uncle Ben in Spiderman “With great power comes great responsibility” ;) ). One of my favorite character interactions is how Ellie and her grandfather get to know each other better and they both seem to help each other. The book is just an awesome read. The chapters are very short and you just want to read the whole thing right away. One thing I noticed is that on each chapter heading, there are that many goldfish (like one goldfish on chapter 1 and two goldfish on chapter 2 and so on) up until chapters 14, 15 and 16 – they all have 14 goldfish. Then chapter 17 has 13 goldfish, 18 has 12 and so on until the last chapter has just one goldfish again. Okay that’s pretty nerdy of me to notice that, but I still think it’s cool. ;) *NOTE* I got a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really cool and funny. I am going into fifth grade and don't have to read fifth grade books but I choose to anyway. I thought this book was going to be okay because I love books by Jennifer L. Holm, but don't like science that much. I was surprised at how good it was. It was the best fifth grade summer reading book ever. GO JENNIFER L. HOLM -By Ava
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kiss your hand three times post this on three diffrent books look under your pillow
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I like this book because its funny
4Gazpacho More than 1 year ago
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 Marvin 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. Marvin 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. Marvin 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.
Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
It’s a fun story centering around eleven-year old Ellie and her grandfather. Bickering with her mother, a young male makes his way into the house accompanying Ellie’s mom wearing polyester pants and a tweed jacket. Ellie thinks this teen looks a bit like her grandfather but how can that be? This thirteen- year old youngster cannot be her seventy-six year old grandfather. With twenty-twenty vision, a head of hair, arthritis gone and his hearing good as new, Ellie grandfather has found the way to reverse aging. He then used this treatment upon himself. Reading this, I thought of the movie, Big and I was excited. To be young again, really young, would I go back in time and live my life over? Grandpa did something terrific but would he be able to reap the benefits? Did he want to be a kid again and have fun or was he just doing this for science since he was a scientist? Grandfather feels like he has the world at his hands but first, he needs to deal with the implications of being young and no one recognizing him. Ellie gets a lot of grandpa time as he is now her babysitter and he must also go to school with Ellie as he adjusts to being a teenager again. The author does a terrific job adding lots of fascinating science facts and details into the storyline all throughout the story. Science is a process and the two of them discover parts of the process together. The duo of Ellie and her grandfather, these two are quite something at school and home. Grandfather has years of experience and education but in a body of an adolescent and his granddaughter, she’s young but she’s sharp also. They are truly a remarkable pair. I received a complimentary e-book from NetGalley and Random House BFYR in exchange for my honest review. Thank you.
Anonymous 6 months ago
It was a great book
Readingjunky More than 1 year ago
Ellie is starting middle school. Things are definitely different than fifth grade. Her best friend's interests have totally changed directions. Brianna is more into volleyball than the monster movies she and Ellie always loved to watch. Looking for a new friend isn't something Ellie is looking forward to, and she certainly never dreamed that the new middle school friend she would make would end up being her own grandfather. A phone call from the police ends with a surprise houseguest for Ellie and her mom. Ellie's grandfather was caught trying to break into his science laboratory. It turns out that the teenage boy using her grandfather's keycard was actually her grandfather. He was recently experimenting with a compound made from a rare jellyfish and discovered a way to reverse the aging process. Ellie's grandfather is now in middle school just like Ellie. THE FOURTEENTH GOLDFISH by Jennifer L. Holm is a hilarious read. Grandfather Melvin as a teenager provides lots of laughs. Ellie connects with her grandfather on a whole new level and comes to appreciate science in a way she never has before. Holm includes vital facts about a number of famous scientists and their contributions to mankind. Stay tuned for a review of the sequel titled THE THIRD MUSHROOM.
ForTheArtOfIt More than 1 year ago
This was such a great middle-grade book! The opening grabbed me and pulled me in immediately. I'd love to know Starlily - I bet her preschool class is a fun place! The book is written in first person which is not my favorite - and this book reminds me why. Don't get me wrong - the writing is really good, I finished this book in one evening. You get one perspective - that's it. Great characters - Melvin made me smile all the time. My favorite part of the book is the way Holm champions science and Ellie is encouraged to explore science. Certainly there is a push for more science education (have you heard of STEM? Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) in the past decade that has been expanding into other domains as well. In addition to being able to discuss women in science, this book also broaches two other subjects that are also very weighty and relevant. First, there is the exploration of friendships that change and fade and the emergence of new friendships. Ellie handles the loss of her best friend so well: she recognizes it, she is happy for the chances for her friend, but she isn't despondent. Science is certainly about discovery - but this book explores whether there are some discoveries that shouldn't be pursued (remember Dolly, the clones sheep?) and what would the reasons be for either argument. As a teacher, I would partner with the science teacher for an interdisciplinary unit woven around this book.
InspirationalAngel531 More than 1 year ago
Title: The Fourteenth Goldfish Author: Jennifer L Holm Publisher: Random House Children's Published: 8-26-2014 Pages: 210 Genre: Children's Fiction Sub-Genre: Death & Dying, Multigenerational, Family Life, Growing up & Facts of Life, Difficult Discussions ISBN: 9780375870644 ASIN: B00IQRN$PW Reviewed For NetGalley and Reviewer: DelAnne Rating: 4.5 Stars What do you do when your elderly Grandfather walks in the door with a young boy your age that turns out to be none other than your grandfather himself. Seems Ellie's Grandfather has discovered the fountain of youth. With her life in flux we get to learn about her life, her family and hopes for her new family situation. My rating of "The Fourteenth Goldfish" is 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This wasn't my type of book, but I tried it out, and it turned out pretty good. The only reason I didn't rate 5 stars is because it was not my type of genre. I did love how Ellie and her grandfather had a very scientific adventure with each other. Great book!
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GHott More than 1 year ago
Hott Synopsis: ‘You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him discover it for himself’ ~ Galileo Galilei Science fiction is becoming reality in Ellie’s house! It may take her a few minutes to catch up, but she does eventually realize that the teen ordering her mother around is really her grandfather, Melvin. The thing is, Ellie finds her grandfather tremendously interesting and fun… though she’d much prefer for him to be his own age again. Hott Review: What I liked: The Fourteenth Goldfish was a cute middle-grade book. It was interesting and fast-paced. The huge underlying lesson is one that should stay with them for a long time. What I didn’t like: I think this is going to be a niche book. There are a lot of science terms and references that not all middle-graders will enjoy. More… Author: Jennifer L. Holm Source: Random House Books for Young Readers via Netgalley Grade: B+ Ages: 10-15 Setting: San Francisco, CA
MargieS1 More than 1 year ago
Given To Me For An Honest Review The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm is a great book for ages 8 - 12 and grades 3 - 7.  Once you begin reading  this book it will be hard to put down. As you read it you will feel as though you are part of the story. It is funny, action packed and very inspirational. It touches on family issues, school issues, peer and friendship issues with lots of humor . It is easy to read and its about science. I recommend this to all. 
BooksAplenty More than 1 year ago
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. 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. 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 Note: I was provided a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review