Booktalk for THE FOURTEENTH GOLDFISH by Jennifer Holm

the-fourteenth-goldfishEllie’s mother calls one afternoon to say she’ll be late getting home because she has to pick up Ellie’s grandfather from the police station. What?!! He’s a wrinkled old scientist, why would he be at the police?

When her mom gets home, she’s brought a young teenager with her — a skinny boy Ellie has never met before. He gets out of the car, stands on the sidewalk, crosses his arms, and starts bossing Ellie’s mom around. “You need to put the trash out! And when is the last time you’ve fertilized the lawn?” He sounds just like Grandpa.

And he is. Ellie’s grandfather has been trying to find ways to cure aging, and he tested his experiments on himself. He turned himself from an 80-year-old into a 13-year-old.

Ellie soon finds out what it is like to live with — and go to school with — her gawky, grumpy, bossy teenage grandfather.


Genre: Science fiction

Grades 5-7.


Anna’s take on it:

The grandfather-turned-teenager premise is a fun one, and it really catches kids’ attention.

I like to make this booktalk into a piece of mini-theater. Before I start, I ask for a volunteer from the audience to come up front. I’ll make a big deal of asking for someone who is really good at being bossy, maybe someone who has younger siblings. A lot of hands go up.

I give the volunteer a card with a couple of lines of dialogue on it. Instead of me simply telling what the bossy boy/grandfather says, it becomes a mini-scene:

Student: “You need to put your trash out!”
Me: “Would you come inside already?”
Student: “And when’s the last time you fertilized the lawn?!”

Often, I’ll use The Fourteenth Goldfish as the first title in my talk — the book is an easy sell, and the interactive scene is a great way to get kids engaged in the presentation.