The Fourteenth Goldfish is an entertaining book about STEM themes (science, technology, engineering, and math). It tells the story of an eleven year old girl named Ellie and the day her mother brings home a mysterious thirteen year old boy who acts just like her grandfather. She soon learns that the boy is her grandfather. It turns out her grandfather is a scientist who has discovered a way to reverse the aging process. Before this event she didn’t know her grandfather well, but this gives her an opportunity to get to know him and discover her own passion for science. Meanwhile, her grandfather fights all the time with Ellie’s mother (his daughter), disapproving of her choices in life, and keeps creating schemes to break back into his lab in order to secure the jellyfish that allowed him to reverse the aging process. He hopes to publish his findings and reproduce the results in order to win the Nobel Prize.
Throughout the story, the grandfather details major scientists such as Jonas Salks, Isaac Newton, Galileo, Robert Oppenheimer and their discoveries which peaks Ellie’s interest in science. He shows her science’s ability to cure the ills of the world. He teaches her important attitudes like never giving up even in the face of failure. Ellie, however, soon does her own research that gives her another side to this story; she looks up the results of Oppenheimer’s nuclear weapon, which her grandfather presents in a positive light as being the discovering that ended World War II. She learns the negative side of Oppenheimer’s scientific endeavors (i.e. it didn’t just end the war, but killed a lot of people to do so).
The story uses the scientific idea of reversing age for humor, but soon delves into the ethical side of his discovery. What are the repercussions for the world if his discovery goes public? The final problem of the novel is to convince her grandfather that the world isn’t ready for his discovery, which he resists and rationalizes away, dreaming of his own fame and coveted Nobel Prize. Slowly he comes to realize that she is right.