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Review of The Third Mushroom

The Third Mushroom
by Jennifer L. Holm; illus. by Tad Carpenter
Intermediate    Random    230 pp.    g
9/18    978-1-5247-1980-7    $16.99
Library ed.  978-1-5247-1981-4    $19.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5247-1982-1    $10.99

Grandpa Melvin returns in this sequel to The Fourteenth Goldfish, still stuck in the body of a teenager (thanks to his earlier anti-aging experiment) and ready to help granddaughter Ellie devise a winning science-fair project. Ellie, in between performing experiments on fruit flies, reconnecting with an estranged friend, and putting up with Melvin’s tendency to leave dirty socks all over the house, is also learning new lessons about relationships. She learns what it means to lose a beloved pet; a disastrous attempt at a date with her best friend Raj teaches her to value platonic friendships on their own terms. Her growth as a scientist continues, both with the fruit flies and at home, where Melvin’s attempt to regrow a tooth develops some unintended consequences. Holm subtly introduces elements of scientific history without detracting from the book’s plot (back matter provides additional information on scientists mentioned in the novel). The author packs an impressive amount of character development into a concise story, while Ellie’s engaging first-person narration (describing a chess tournament: “Hands fly. Chess pieces are knocked over. Timers smacked. It’s like the board game version of a contact sport”), along with Melvin’s scenery-chewing tendencies (“Scientists are not robots! We’re human! We feel deeply!”) make for engaging reading, and provide an easy introduction for readers who may be meeting the characters for the first time.

From the September/October 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Sarah Rettger

Sarah Rettger is an independent bookseller in Boston.

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