NETGALLEY REVIEW: The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm
The latest middle grade novel by three time Newberry winning author, Jennifer L. Holm.
Release date: August 26, 2014
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

Why this book is great: (from a middle grade reader's point of view)
  1. It helps you think about science.
  2. It helps you learn to respect older people, who may actually have a lot of wisdom about things that you never realized.
  3. It's set in Berkeley or the Bay Area, which is just a great area.
  4. There is a Halloween part that is funny.
  5. It helps you think about science (oh, yeah, I already said that)
  6. It tells you about some of the inventions in science during the last century.
  7. It even talks about the Atom Bomb, but not in a freaky way, in a good way (which is weird but an interesting surprise).
A review from my point of view for fellow writers and readers:
THE FOURTEENTH GOLDFISH by Jennifer L. Holm tells the story of Ellie, an eleven year old who "has never liked change. She misses fifth grade. She misses her old best friend. She even misses her dearly departed goldfish. Then, one day..." (from the books intro) 
Now, I will continue in my own words:
A gawky, science-genius shows up in the form of a teen-ager, but it's really her grandfather, who has been living nearby, but with whom Ellie does not have a super-close relationship because her mother is a drama-type, works in a theater, and her dad's (though mostly out of the picture, except when he returns to fix the toilet) is a working, stage actor.

Her grandfather has always given his daughter (Ellie's mom) a hard time for not going into science. And considers drama for flakes. But this new scientific influence, is just what Ellie needs, since she isn't the showy-extraverted type anyway.

Without spoiling anything, let me just say, that this book is a fun, cute, heartwarming and educational, and NOT SAPPY. It rang true to me, because Berkeley -- or Bes-erk-ly, as we used to call it -- is a free-spirit sort-of-place, with hippies and artists running amok, but also some amazing science going on. (Think Livermore Labs etc) and sometimes the two do collide.
This middle grade novel is excellently written and structured, and worth studying for any writer of Middle Grade fiction. I loved the way realism is enhanced just a tad with the fantasy element of the grandfather-turned-young-again. Everything is handled in a contemporary style, so it rings true. Just a little twist on reality.  The characters are introduced well. And the short preface about the goldfish is just enough to give you a feel for the character's inner life, before heading into the story. 

The theme is fairly evident in the beginning – the challenge of a young person to take her older relative seriously for his amazing accomplishments. The book creates  somewhat suspenseful premise to keep you engaged and turning pages. I was hooked from the beginning because Ellie's voice is so genuine.
The story could have been a bit more suspenseful. It could have been more dramatic during the final conflict. But the change that the main character experiences is gradual, and does not really hinge on the climax. Though, it is really the grandfather that is forced to make a tough choice.

The question of belief and standing up for what you feel is right -- an age old theme -- does often does mark a transition from childhood to adulthood that may kids experience around the age of 11 or 12.  I hope young readers love this book as much as I did.
I highly recommend this book!!
Jennifer L. Holm is a three time Newberry Honor recipient, and a NY Times bestselling author.  
You can pre-order the book on Amazon. Let me know what YOU think. Write your own review in the comment section. Thanks.


  1. I love Jennifer Holm's books. I'm happy to hear this one is good as well. Thanks for the review!

  2. I love Jennifer Holm's books. I'm happy to hear this one is good as well. Thanks for the review!


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