Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The fourteenth goldfish by Jennifer L Holm

Believe in the possible

The fourteenth goldfish was an interesting book to read after The Curious world of Calpurnia Tate because it is another story filled with science.

Again we have a scientist in the family - another grandfather. Ellie's grandfather Melvin  has been researching a cure for aging - the fountain of youth.  He has experimented on himself and as the story opens he has been bought home by Ellie's mother - his daughter - but he now looks like a 13 year old boy.

This book is quite a light read but there are some laugh aloud moments and you will enjoy the honest voice of Ellie as she negotiates Middle School, friendships and her 'young' old grandfather.

Here is a trailer from the publisher where you can hear the author talking about this book.  The title relates to a goldfish given to each child back in preschool.  "The goldfish will teach your child about the cycle of life ... goldfish don't last very long."

Somehow Goldie lasts right through to fifth grade but then Ellie's mother reveals the truth.  This is actually the thirteenth goldfish - she has been quietly replacing them at regular intervals.  This metaphor for life, though, is at the heart of this book.  There is a cycle for life and perhaps we tamper with it at our peril.  Through her conversations with Melvin Ellie learns about the scientific endeavors of Jonas Salk, Louis Pasteur, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Marie Curie and Isaac Newton.  "Newton, you mean like the cookie?'  'No Isaac Newton the father of modern physics!"

I do like the cover design, numerous endorsements, discussion questions and profiles of scientists which are included with this book along with a cheeky book review by Melvin after reading The Catcher in the Rye.  Here are a set of teaching notes from the publisher.

We can search for the fountain of youth, or sneakily replace our kid’s goldfish when it dies, or --- as Ellie and Melvin find --- we can face and embrace our mortality as a beacon of possibility.   KidsReads

Even as he helps Ellie recognize they are kindred spirits, bonded by their love of science, she helps him reconsider his priorities. Perhaps the most important prize is not the Nobel after all. Youth, old age, life, death, love, possibilities and — oh yes — goldfish all come together in this warm, witty and wise novel. New York Times

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