Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4
What did you like about the book? 7th grader Ellie is really glad to have Melvin, her brilliant scientist grandfather, visiting. It’s tricky, though, because even though he is 77, Melvin lives in the body of a 14-year-old boy due to an anti-aging experiment a few years ago. He goes to middle school with Ellie (posing as her cousin) and the two of them come up with an interesting experiment for the upcoming science fair. Their project involves testing fruit flies that have ingested an axolotl, which has regenerative properties. When the wingless flies are found to have developed wings, Melvin secretly decides to try the experiment on himself to regrow a missing tooth…with some exciting results!
While the science experiment develops, Ellie is engaging in some social experiments as well – learning to become a vegetarian to humor her mother and stepfather, becoming reacquainted with a childhood friend, and contemplating romance with her best friend Raj. The results from these experiments help reinforce the importance of taking chances and the acceptability of making mistakes (and the value of learning from them).
With her usual skill, Holm sensitively and realistically portrays the awkwardness of dating, the heartbreak of losing a special pet, and the lovely bond between grandfather and granddaughter. The book’s STEM themes, though present in every scene, take a back seat to the humor and warmth of the human relationships.
Back matter is included with further information about the many scientists referenced in the book, as well as chapter 1 of The Fourteenth Goldfish, to entice readers who may have missed that book.
Anything you didn’t like about it? I’m afraid the ending closes the door for a potential third book…
To whom would you recommend this book? Readers left hanging by The Fourteenth Goldfish will definitely be glad for this update! It would also be enjoyable for fans of realistic fiction with a STEM/science fiction edge, such as books by Stacy McAnulty. There is also a nice potential to tie-in to the book Did Fleming Rescue Churchill? By James Cross Giblin.
Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries
Where would you shelve it? Fiction
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? no, but if you loved The Fourteenth Goldfish, you will definitely want to get caught up.
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Leigh King, Lincoln St. Elementary School, Northborough, Mass.
Date of review: 5/4/2020