The Third Mushroom
September 04, 2018
Ellie's grandpa Melvin is a world-renowned scientist . . . in the body of a fourteen-year-old boy. His feet stink, and he eats everything in the refrigerator--and Ellie is so happy to have him around. Grandpa may not exactly fit in at middle school, but he certainly keeps things interesting. When he and Ellie team up for the county science fair, no one realizes just how groundbreaking their experiment will be. The formula for eternal youth may be within their reach! And when Ellie's cat, Jonas Salk, gets sick, the stakes become even higher. But is the key to eternal life really the key to happiness? Sometimes even the most careful experiments yield unexpected--and wonderful--results.
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The characters are delightful and wonderfully nuanced. Ellie has a lot to deal with, but does really well... most of the time. She becomes sidelined by the sort of things that can happen to many middle school students-- friend trouble, boy trouble, and the death of a pet. These are all real concerns that can be devastating to young readers and should be treated as serious. I liked that the mother was around and concerned but also had her own life. Melvin... Melvin is great. His budding romance with the local librarian made me cry!
The science fair is a nice touch, since it is a very common occurrence in middle school that shows up rarely in the literature. While this is primarily science fiction (due to Melvin's experiments with turning himself younger), there are also a lot of good science topics covered. Holm has an interest in STEM topics, and teachers are always asking me for books that include science, so I'm always glad to find new ones.
Younger readers might be warned about the death of Jonas. It was handled well, but it was a bit odd that we don't know quite what happened. Was he hit by a car? I realize that this was so that they could inject him with the axolotl and have some hope, but it was an odd note in an otherwise upbeat title. .
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