"I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Fourteenth Goldfish

I have just re-read The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer Holm. 

I can happily tell you that it was just as great.

Since summarizing a book is not my forte, here's what they have to say at Goodreads:

"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 pimply boy really be Grandpa Melvin? Has he finally found the secret to eternal youth?"

I feel it is only fair to share that I was destined to love the premise and subject matter of The Fourteenth Goldfish

My grandfather was an inventor. He invented things like a non-glare headlight and made improvements to the blast furnace used in steel production. His interest shifted toward the creation of the universe and in 1948, my grandfather traveled to Princeton to meet Einstein. My grandfather did not believe in the big bang theory. He believed that the red shift is caused by electromagnetic fields and not by the speed of objects moving away from each other. Einstein was very supportive and encouraged my grandfather to continue his research. My grandfather took him at his word and published three papers: Gravitation and Cosmic Rotations, On the Origin and Nature of Gravitational Fields, and Gravitation and The Red Shift. As a young child, I only knew that my grandfather loved graph paper, notebooks, and very sharp pencils. He was the wonderful man who would take me on walks around the neighborhood pointing out interesting things. As I grew older, I discovered his passion for learning. So you see, I was destined to love a book about a girl, her grandfather, passion for learning, and science! 
What I was not destined to do was fall in love with the story.  Jennifer Holm has written a beautiful and complex story that will have readers contemplating ideas both big and small.  The Fourteenth Goldfish is a story about: dealing with beginnings and endings; finding your passion; being a family; accepting change; finding unexpected friendships; oh, and science. 
A lesson in the life cycle that begins with a goldfish comes full circle thirteen goldfish later. After discovering that her one lucky goldfish was really 13 unlucky goldfish, Ellie questions what her teacher was trying to help them understand about the life cycle. With her grandfather's help, Ellie discovers that the fourteenth holds the most valuable lesson. The Fourteenth Goldfish helps readers explore issues around the types of lives we want to live and the things we value. It's a story where both Ellie and her grandfather learn the importance of growing up and growing old. 
Jennifer Holm has introduced a new generation of readers to a number of scientists. The inclusion of recommended resources to learn more about the scientists mentioned in the book gives readers a place to begin their exploration. One of my fifth grade teachers is reading this book with his students. I am looking forward to discussing it with them and getting into projects inspired by their experience! I hope that The Fourteenth Goldfish inspires readers to become explorers, inventors, and discoverers themselves. As Jennifer Holm says in her author's note: "Be inspired by the scientists who came before you, and fall in love with discovery. Most of all, believe in the possible." *Text is from Advanced reader's copy.

Don't miss this gem of a story.

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