The Fourteenth Goldfish - Jennifer L. Holm

I love a good quirky novel, something that is realistic but just a little bit "off" or bizarre. In this particular gem, eleven-year-old Ellie is noticing how much life has begun to change after leaving fifth grade... and now her grandfather is living with her and her mom... and he looks to be about thirteen years old. What the whaaaa? Love it!

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.

What starts off as a simple-seeming book about a girl growing up, soon turns into an examination of life, death, aging, science, and friendship. I know, I know, it sounds cliche, but Holm, as always, keeps things from slipping into that realm. Her signature wit and honesty is effortlessly woven into the novel, bringing Ellie and her grandfather to life within The Fourteenth Goldfish.

What I love about this book is that Holm pulls no punches. Within the humorous and quirky world of the novel, Holm deals with a lot of intense and realistic themes as well. Ellie's parents are divorced, for instance, and the book also looks at the complexities of family and the consequences of death. Some of the humour is dark, but it works really well within the overall world of the novel. For example, when her mom enrols Ellie's grandfather in middle school, the following fake backstory is fabricated:
She tips her head at my grandfather. "That Melvin here is my distant cousin's kid. His dad dies and his mom remarried a meth addict. He doesn't get along with the new stepfather, who he secretly suspects started the fire that burned down the trailer with his dad in it. So he hitchhiked up here and I took him in."
The novel will truly capture the imaginations of young readers, and it's also a great book for reading aloud since it contains humour that adult readers will also find amusing. Holm encourages youngsters to ask big questions and not shy away from existential musings. The book is also a source of information about science and history, but without being preachy or reading like a textbook. There's just so much to love about The Fourteenth Goldfish!

"To the possible!"

Highly Recommended

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