Life isn’t a Hollywood movie. That’s one of the many things that Ellie learns in The Third Mushroom, an incredibly satisfying sequel to The Fourteenth Goldfish. In this book, which I finished in under 24 hours, we watch as Ellie experiments with her first romantic relationship, works on a science fair project with her grandfather, and realizes that having someone who shares memories with you is important. It is useful to have read The Fourteenth Goldfish, but it can be read without that background knowledge.
Ellie’s grandfather, Melvin, is a scientist with 2 PhD’s and appears to be about 14 even though he is really in his 70s. After The Fourteenth Goldfish, Melvin had decided to travel, but has tired of it. He slips easily back into his life with Ellie and her mom, but a little less easily into middle school. His being back does help Ellie enter the science fair though. After looking at a specimen of Melvin’s that turns out to be an axolotl with extra legs, they grow fruit flies to see if something in the axolotl causes the growth. When they see their experiment starting to work, Melvin also injects himself with some of the axolotl in the hopes to grow back a tooth. Of course it doesn’t do that, but there are other consequences.
At the same time, The Third Mushroom is very much about friendship. Ellie is having to navigate the waters of the possibility that her relationship with her best friend, Raj, might be turning into something more, and she isn’t sure how she feels about that. The awkwardness of that possible change pushes her back into a friendship with Brianna, who used to be her best friend until they hit 6th grade and everything changed. Ellie realizes how nice it is to have memories with someone. Even Melvin learns how vital it is to be able to have someone to share memories with, even if they are just general memories of the way things were when he was a teenager.
Jennifer L. Holm did it again with this book. The Third Mushroom is a great book that takes on interesting topics, even scientific ones. Anyone who enjoyed The Fourteenth Goldfish will definitely want to pick this one up as well.
* Thank you to NetGalley for a review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.