A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What 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.
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What's the story?
Twelve-year-old Matthew got the nickname THE GOLDFISH BOY because he spends all his time in his bedroom, too afraid to go outside. His obsessive compulsive disorder makes him afraid that he'll bring in germs from the outside world that will make his loved ones sick and possibly die. From his upstairs windows he watches all the comings and goings on his little cul de sac and takes careful notes of what he sees. Because of this, he was the last person to see his neighbor's grandson Teddy (a 15-month-old toddler) before the child mysteriously disappeared. There are a lot of possible suspects in the neighborhood, and as Matthew tries to crack the case, he learns that very few people, including himself, are what they seem.
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how The Goldfish Boy shows what it's like to have OCD. Did you know anything about it before you read the book? What did you learn about it?
Have you ever had to do something you were afraid to do? What happened? Were you able to find the courage to do it?
Did you understand what Old Nina meant when she said, "Don't ever wait for a storm to pass. You've got to go out there and dance in the rain"? What does Matthew think she meant?
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