A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Some facts about obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Details about what it's like to live with OCD will inspire empathy.
You'll miss out on a lot in life if you spend it waiting for things to get better. You have to take action and do something yourself to make things better. Letting people get to know you and taking the chance to get to know them can help you feel less alone and different once you realize that lots of people feel the same way. Talking about your feelings makes you feel better and helps others understand you and be able to help you.
Positive Role Models
Matthew wants to help find the missing toddler and finds ways he can help even when he can't bring himself to leave his house. He finds the courage to do things that are scary or make him uncomfortable and learns that he can do more than he thought. His parents are loving but not very understanding and sometimes say and do hurtful things. Friend Melody is persistent, understanding, and willing to help however she can. Few adults in Matthew's neighborhood are what they seem. A 7-year-old girl shows some sociopathic behavior.
Violence & Scariness
Main plot is about the disappearance of a toddler from his grandfather's front yard. Blood mentioned from accidentally getting poked by a rose thorn. Matthew remembers overhearing his pregnant mother mention that there's blood when she was on the way to the hospital. A young girl pushes her baby brother into a pond and watches while he thrashes around in deep water. A man throws a bucket of water on a cat and tries to kick it. A boy grabs a girl's wrist and takes her picture with his cell phone. Lots of memories, trauma, and guilt around the death five years ago of Matthew's baby brother, who did not survive long enough to come home from the hospital; the exact circumstances are never explained. Matthew accidentally burns himself by washing his hands with bleach but can't stop himself until his mom gets him some latex gloves.
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"Damn it." A PE teacher verbally bullies his students.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Goldfish Boy is about 12-year-old Matthew, who suffers from OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and almost never leaves his room. There's some mild scariness when a toddler disappears, and Matthew frequently revisits his feelings of guilt over the death of a baby brother a few years before. As far as strong language, there's only one "damn it," but a PE teacher verbally bullies his students. Matthew is a positive role model for finding the courage to do things he's scared of and learning that he can do more than he thinks he can. He'll also help kids understand a bit about OCD and inspire empathy for those who suffer with it. A disliked adult character sneaks out of his house to smoke at night.
Is It Any Good?
Author Lisa Thompson's first novel is an absorbing, intriguing mystery with a compelling hero who's easy to relate to and root for and a plot with lots of surprising twists and turns. All the characters in The Goldfish Boy are well developed, and big kids and tweens will feel a lot of empathy for 12-year-old Matthew as they learn a bit about OCD and what it's like to live with it.
Parents might want to be ready to answer questions and provide reassurance for questions and fears that might come up due to the strong themes of newborn loss and a toddler who disappears under mysterious circumstances. The story provides good examples of learning to cope, and there's a safe resolution to the mystery. It's a great introduction to the "whodunit" genre and provides good examples about seeing things through, keeping at difficult tasks, critical thinking, and jumping to conclusions.
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