Genre: General

The World of the “Possible”: The Fourteenth Goldfish (2014) by Jennifer L. Holm

The World of the “Possible”: The Fourteenth Goldfish (2014) by Jennifer L. HolmThe Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm
Published by Random House Children's Books on August 26th 2014
Genres: Death & Dying, Family, Fantasy & Magic, General, Middle Grade, Social Issues
Pages: 208

Suggested age range: 10 and up

I received an e-ARC of this book from Net Galley & Random House Kids in exchange for an honest review.

The Book: Ellie is eleven and in middle school. Transition is difficult in itself but throw in the sudden arrival of her grandfather at her home, and things are even more complicated. That’s because he’s thirteen years old! As a famous scientist, Melvin has successfully reversed the aging process through his discovery of a jellyfish compound, dubbed T. melvinus. So Ellie is essentially going to school with a teenager who has a 76 year old brain. Ellie and her friend Raj decide to help Melvin break into his lab in order to safeguard the compound, and if they accomplish this, perhaps the world will finally have its “fountain of youth.” What ensues is a humorous adventure in which Ellie discovers more about herself,  the changing nature of friendships, and the value of love from family and friends in the midst of growing up.

Spirituality in The Fourteenth Goldfish: The book’s ability to make the reader consider the realm of the “possibles” in the world of science is one of its highlights. I, for one, think that the relationship between spirituality and science is a relevant one. Especially when you get into quantum physics. I’ll save that for another post though. What I want to say is that some points and themes in the story leave gaps for spiritual ideas to poke through. For example, the cycle of life is important and the way that cycle runs is significant—if we have the power, should we be able to alter that? Should we play God? Such questions raise what could be heavy issues with readers.

Who Should Read This Book: Fans of When You Reach Me or A Tangle of Knots would get this title as a reading option from me (were you in my 6th grade classroom). The journey of a girl navigating the beginnings of middle school and also harboring a great secret (her grandfather who has discovered how to reverse aging is a teenager living in her home) is one that I think many readers of fantasy or science fiction would enjoy. I also think there are some cool events that could coincide with this text—jellyfish research and fountain of youth creations and even lunch at a Chinese restaurant where segments of dialogue could be read from the book in a reader’s theatre presentation. Don’t ignore the ‘possibles’ with this one!

The Final Word: Jennifer L. Holm is a three time Newbery honor winner, and this novel’s unique premise is reason alone to delve into the world of middle grade science fiction, if that’s not your normal cup of tea. If you found a fountain of youth, would you take advantage of it? If you could have your grandparent live with you, but as a teenager, would you say yes? You might never have to answer either of these questions in reality, but they’re amusing to think about. This story is charming, but it also gives science nerds something meatier to read as well. Readers that aren’t as interested in science might get a little bogged down at times, and there were a few points where I wanted more to happen faster, but all in all, I enjoyed the story and was satisfied with its conclusion. I’m especially drawn to middle grade novels that highlight enduring themes like this one: “Never ignore a possible.” Challenge accepted.


What did you think of The Fourteenth Goldfish? Are there other middle grade science fiction titles this reminds you of?

What Katie Read

A Cyborg Cinderella: Mini Review–Cinder (2012) by Marissa Meyer

A Cyborg Cinderella: Mini Review–Cinder (2012) by Marissa MeyerCinder by Marissa Meyer
Published by Macmillan on January 3rd 2012
Genres: Adaptations, Fairy Tales & Folklore, General, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 400

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth's fate hinges on one girl. . . .Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She's a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister's illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai's, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world's future.

The Book: Think Cinderella, cyborgs, androids, Prince, Evil Queen, Horrible stepmother, deadly plague, action, adventure, secrets, and danger. Need I say more? Cinder is the first book in what is going to be an epic series, filled with memorable characters that we already know. Sort of. Why? Fairy Tales! Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel. These are some of the names that will grace the pages of Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles.

The Cinderella of Meyer’s world, however, isn’t the one we know. Not exactly. Cinder is cyborg—she’s not totally human. The cover features a beautiful blood red high heel that reveals the metal foot of Linh Cinder, a mechanic. Will she ever break away from her terrible stepmother? Is this a fairy tale with a happy ending? How will Prince Kai react when he discovers Cinder is a cyborg? What happened in Cinder’s past that is so important to her present and to her future? Cinder answers all these questions and more.

The Final Word: I couldn’t read Cinder fast enough, and am about to start Scarlet. I knew I was going to love this series, but was unprepared for how good the first book was. I love fairy tales! The way Meyer has taken the fairy tale of Cinderella and adapted it for a world of cyborgs, androids, and deadly plagues is genius. I like the character of Cinder; she is someone I would want to be friends with, and as a reader, I care about what happens to her. When an author accomplishes that, I take note. Here is a series that I know will stick with me for a long time. I look forward to reading and reviewing Scarlet and Cress in the very near future.

If you read this book: You’ll laugh and cry, you will be intrigued and probably enraged, but most of all, you will want to continue to explore the wonderful world of Cinder through Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles!.


What Katie Read
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