CLSC Young Readers Dive Into World of Holm’s ‘Fourteenth Goldfish’

This week, CLSC Young Readers will grapple with an age-old question: What does it mean to live forever?

At 12:30 p.m. today, July 17 at the Children’s School Jessica Trapasso Pavilion, the CLSC Young Readers program will discuss the themes and ideas behind Jennifer L. Holm’s The Fourteenth Goldfish, a New York Times bestseller.

Abrahamic Program for Young Adults coordinators Nikhat Noorani, Anna Glaize and Safwan Shaikh will lead participants in an interactive conversation about the book, and then, like book’s main character, young readers will try their own hand at chemistry and experimentation by making ice cream from scratch.

Holm’s book follows Ellie, an 11-year-old girl who is struggling to find her passions in life. This all changes when her grandfather re-enters her life — as a 13-year-old boy. Ellie’s grandfather, Melvin, who is a world-renowned scientist, moves in with Ellie and her mother after reverting himself in age thanks to a formula he made from a jellyfish.

But Melvin is not allowed back into his lab because nobody recognizes him. 

Now, Melvin re-lives his  middle school days — not fitting in, being a 76-year-old in a 13-year-old’s body, having acne and being smarter than all the teachers at the school. Ellie teaches him the ways of being a teenager, and through helping Melvin with his research, she discovers her passion for science. As the book progresses, Melvin realizes that while his dream is to win a Nobel Prize for his work, some discoveries are better left undiscovered for the greater good.

Through the program, the CLSC Young Readers are encouraged to ask larger questions that fit the scope of Week Four, “The New Map of Life: How Longer Lives Are Changing the World — In Collaboration with Stanford Center on Longevity.” Karen Schiavone, manager of community education, said she hopes the book sparks meaningful conversations among young readers.

“Being that The Fourteenth Goldfish is about a scientist and grandfather who figures out a way to be a teenager again, this book couldn’t be a better fit for our Week Four lecture theme,” Schiavone said. “It truly gets at the questions presented this week: Do we really want to live forever? We can live longer, but should we? What issues do longer lifespans present?”

Schiavone said that while reading the book,  she most enjoyed the concept of wisdom coming from different sources, particularly from people of different ages.  A fresh pair of eyes, usually those of a younger person, can bring a new perspective to an old problem.

“In The Fourteenth Goldfish, it is 11-year-old Ellie — seemingly wise beyond her years — who ultimately convinces her grandfather that it wouldn’t be right for him and others of his generation to live forever, because it defies the cycle of life,” Schiavone said. “I would say that is my favorite part of Goldfish, because wisdom comes in all forms, and more often than not, from those who are young and see the world in a very different light. As Jonas Salk said, and Ellie’s grandfather remembers, ‘Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors.’ ”

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The author Evan Dean

Evan Dean is originally from West Orange, New Jersey, but now spends most of his time in St. Petersburg, Florida, studying at Eckerd College. Currently majoring in communications with a minor in journalism, he covers recreation for the Daily. An avid canoe voyager and Eagle Scout, Evan loves spending time outdoors and is ready for his first summer at Chautauqua.