STEM Book Club: The Fourteenth Goldfish

February 2020

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm is a 4-6th grade juvenile fiction book with some fun STEM elements.

Eleven-year-old Ellie isn’t big on change. She liked fifth grade. She misses fifth grade. Sixth grade just isn’t the same; her best friend has become distant and Ellie doesn’t really know what to do about it. This was her biggest concern until her 76 year-old grandfather shows up on her doorstep, looking like a teenager.

Apparently, her scientist grandfather–obsessed with immortality–experimented on himself and found the fountain of youth. Now this angsty teen with the habits of an old man wants Ellie to help him break into is lab and steal his experiment back.

Things are about to change in a big way and for once, Ellie isn’t sure that is a bad thing. Besides, what could possibly go wrong?

Discussion Questions / Further Reading

  1. What is this book about? What are the main themes?
  2. Senescence is the process of aging. Why would someone like Melvin be interested in this area of study?
  3. Why did Ellie’s Kindergarten teacher give everyone a goldfish?
  4. What would you do if a grandparent showed up on your doorstep as a teenager?
  5. Melvin says, “Scientists never give up. They keep trying because they believe in the possible.” (p. 47) What does he mean when he says this?
  6. What was Melvin trying to teach Ellie with the apple? (pg 52) – Think apple vs. the seeds.
  7. What does Ellie mean when she says, “Science fiction [is] becoming reality”? (p. 59) What are some examples of science fiction becoming reality?
  8. Ellie starts to become more and more interested in science, besides her upbringing in a theater family. What are some examples where you can “see” this happening?
  9. Explain why Ellie thinks that Melvin is the fourteenth goldfish? (Ch 29)
  10. If you could stay young forever, what age would you want to be and why?
  11. Is every scientific discovery good?

Aging Simulation

Supplies: Oversized Gloves; Puzzle with only a few pieces; Magnifying glasses; plastic straws; one-use earplugs.

As we get older, our bodies break down and we lose some of our sensory motor functions—our eyes get weaker, we lose some of our mobility… every day tasks get hard. This simulation is to create an appreciation of the aging process.

Wearing the oversized gloves, try putting together the puzzle as quickly as possible.

  • Wearing the magnifying glasses, go into the children’s room and locate a picture book that starts with the letter “S”.
  • Put the straw in your mouth and breath only through the straw. Do 20 jumping jacks, which breathing through the straw.
  • Put the earplugs in. Try to repeat exactly what the moderator says.


  • Describe your feelings about the limitations you were given?
  • Did you experience any difficulties completing your task?
  • What changes did you observe? About yourself or those observing you?


How’d it go:

What a great group! We had a really great discussion, without me having to yank it out of them. And everyone seemed to have fun with the, somewhat chaotic, aging activity. It went a little faster than I would have liked, so I would tweak a few things but overall, a great STEM club session.

That’s all for now!



Shine! by J.J. and Chris Grabenstein is a juvenile fiction novel for 4-6th graders.

Piper Milly has a talent for blending in. She can’t sing or dance, she doesn’t excel at sports or hangs with the popular crowd. She’s smart, she likes astronomy and she’s happy with her small group of friends. So when her dad get’s a new job at a prestigious prep school, Piper is bummed that she has to transfer.

Chumley Prep is definitely a school for the rich and Piper definitely doesn’t fit in. Shortly after she joins the school, she finds out that a mysterious award will be awarded to the “best” student of winter break. Piper shrugs off the contest because she would never win that sort of thing, or would she?

I love Grabenstein’s books. The children are always so relateable and the books themselves are fun and easy to read. Shine! was no different. This was an inspirational read with the theme of kindness, doing good and being good.

I love when we get a group of misfit friends that band together, each with their own unique character traits. I also thought it was really smart to have Piper’s “who I want to be” diary, throughout the novel. This gave a bit of introspection to Piper’s character.

The only negative thing I can say about this book, was that you knew where it was going from the very beginning. The “tests” were obvious from the readers perspective, even if they weren’t from the characters perspective. That and the book ended so abruptly. I would have liked to have a Piper/Ainsley moment, or at least some type of epilogue.

Other than that, this was a great read and I am going to use it for my 4-6th grade STEM Book Club. While it isn’t overtly STEM, there are a lot of STEM elements and I have two good ideas for activities to go with the story. This one gets 4.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!


Dark and Deepest Red

Dark and Deepest Red is Anna-Marie McLemore’s latest magical realism novel.

In the Summer of 1518, a sickness sweeps through Strasbourg, one that makes men and women dance until they drop dead. It is rumored that witchcraft may be the cause and everyone is a suspect, especially Lavinia and her family, who have a secretive past.

Five centuries later, a pair of red shoes are stuff to Rosella Oliva’s, making her dance uncontrollably. They draw her to the boy, Emil, whose family was blamed for the sickness in 1518.

But the truth can be shadowed over time and together Rosella and Emil must uncover what really happened to Lavinia and Strabourg.

Dark and Deepest Red have all of McLemore’s signature writing style: magical realism that seems to seamlessly blend with the story, a LGBT bend, and prose that flows beautifully. And yet, this is probably my least favorite of her novels. I just couldn’t get into the story. Well, I did eventually but it took way more than half the book.

I didn’t feel as strongly for the characters as I normally do. I couldn’t quite make a connection with them. It was almost like, there wasn’t enough of them. I needed more of their stories, instead of the history.

I did like the tie in of the red shoes paired with the mysterious dancing plague of history. I thought this was pretty neat, especially after listening to the author’s notes.

This wasn’t a bad read, I enjoyed it for what it was. It just wasn’t my favorite. So I am giving this one 3 mediocre stars.

That’s all for now!


The Secret Chapter

The Secret Chapter by Genevieve Cogman is the sixth book in the Invisible Library series.

A very fragile truce has been made between the Dragons and the Fae and somehow Irene and Kai have become the ambassadors of this truce. But when Irene’s home world is in trouble, they put their duties aside to join up with an odd mix of Fae and Dragons for a special heist.

Can Kai and Irene maintain their positions as ambassadors while negotiating with Fae, Dragons, and technology in a high ordered world? And will bargains struck, stick?

Man can Cogman churn these out! And she has a day job too. I enjoy this series a lot. Each book has it’s own incident that Kai and Irene have to deal with, while slowly introducing more long ranging issues to come.

The first two books, I could not put down; I had to finish them right away. The rest, are these lovely little reads that I can pick up and put down and enjoy whenever I want. Some people may think that this is a bad thing but I enjoyed not being pressured to finish. And it’s nice for a change, not having a book deadline; they could keep coming as long as Cogman keeps writing them. It doesn’t feel like the characters are running on a clock. I like having at least one of these series in my back pocket.

One thing I keep waiting for is for Alberich to come back. He’s like Irene’s Moriarty and I just can’t believe that he is done with her.  I also missed the Library and Vale in this one. They weren’t as prevalent in the story as they normally are; but I guess that is to be expected.

I did liked the characters introduced in this book and hope they pop up again as the stories continue.

Overall, this was a fun read and I hope they keep coming. This one gets 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!


Scavenge the Stars

Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim is the first book in a new teen series about pirates and countesses, gambling and more.

When Amaya rescues a stranger from drowning, she has no idea that the consequences would be so severe. Now she has two choices, extend her time on the debtor ship she’s been forced to serve for the past ten years or follow this stranger into the unknown on a quest for revenge.

Thirsting for vengence, Amaya chooses the latter, but the more she gets entwined in this game of revenge, the more she isn’t sure she should be playing at all. When she uncovers the truth about her past, everything changes.

Amaya thought she was fighting for herself but she may have to fight for something more.

This was an interesting book. I didn’t have much in the way of expectations going into it. Pirates cool, deception cool, and a girl kicking but and looking for revenge, cool. And overall, this was an enjoyable read but I think it might get even better moving forward. A lot was built up in the last few chapters that could lead to somewhere really neat and develop the characters further, especially Amaya and Kayo.

That was actually my biggest issue with the book. Amaya and Kayo didn’t wow me as protagonists. Amaya had more depth than Kayo but still, I liked the overall story over the characters themselves. Like I said, this may change now that we are heading into book two, where the plot is leading to bigger, far reaching problems, but we will have to see.

Ultimately, this was an entertaining read and I am glad I picked it up. This one gets 3.5 stars from me. And I’ll definitely get the next one when it comes out.

That’s all for now!


Come Tumbling Down

Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire is the fifth Wayward Children novel.

When Jack left Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children, carrying her twin sister, whom she had just killed, she never expected to return. But death isn’t permanent in the Moors and Jill favorite flavor is revenge. So when Jill steals Jacks body so that she can become a beloved Vampire, Jack turns to her old friends at Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children for help.

Now a Nonsense girl, a Logic boy, an ex-mermaid and heir to the Goblin King are Jack’s only hope to getting her body back and keeping the balance before the Moors devolves into chaos.

Even though this is probably my least favorite book in the series, I loved getting another peek at Jack, Jill and the Moors. This whole series can really do no wrong for me. They are short, both sweet and dark at the same time, and super fast reads. I hope McGuire keeps them coming. I want to see all of Eleanor’s children find their way back to their doors!

In this one we see some familiar faces from the previous four books and some lose ends from the 1st and 2nd book are wrapped up. One thing I wish we would have gotten was at least one or two chapters from Jill’s perspective. In the second book, you got the feel that Jack was the protagonist but Jill still had her own perspective. It would have been nice to see this here.

I also felt that certain parts flew by a little too quickly, then again, that could just be the pace of the book. It really is one of the fastest reads.

The Moors were still dark and gritty, which I love and we get a little more insight into the doors and how the worlds intersect and come and go.

Not my favorite but I love this series so much, I can’t give it less than 4 stars.

That’s all for now!


The Grace Year

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett is an adult dystopia in the vein of The Handmaids Tale.

To talk of the Grace Year is forbidden. It is a time when 16 year old girls go away to release their magic, so that they can come back ready to be biddable wives.

In Garner County, women are considered dangerous creatures. They are not allowed to congregate, their hair must be bound with a ribbon of their station, and they must watch their every step or risk being accused of harboring their magic and luring men into unspeakable acts. This is why all sixteen-year-old girls are banished for one year to a remote island, to release their magic and return purified.

Tierney James is about to embark on her own Grace Year and she both fears it and dreams of a better future. But dreams don’t always come true and Tierney soon witnesses the girls of her year turn against each other. She begins to question the magic and wonders if the real magic is getting the girls to turn against eachother.

Will Tierney make it through her Grace Year? And if she returns home, will she be the same girl who left one year ago?

I honestly, was not expecting much when I picked up this one. Truthfully, I was afraid I would be reading another The Power and I really wasn’t ready for that. So I was pleasantly surprised that I could not put this one down. Yes, there were several twists that I saw coming from the start but they worked.

I really loved seeing how ingrained the society was in the girls, so much so that they bring these rules and rituals with them to the only place they don’t have to. Tierney’s journey toward the truth comes slowly at times and then picks up pace as the story progress.

The book does have some brutality to it, but you don’t seem much of it as it’s happen. It’s more abstract and as if you are looking back on the brutality or almost from the sidelines.

This was a much better read than I was anticipating and I am glad. I give it 4.5 stars.

That’s all for now!