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.”
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