The Third Mushroom

Book review by
Amanda Nojadera, Common Sense Media
The Third Mushroom Book Poster Image
Charming sequel reminds kids to be open to new experiences.

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age 9+
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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Highlights the famous work of a number of important scientists: James Carroll and Jesse Lazear, Alexander Fleming, Caroline and William Herschel, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, Carolus Linnaeus, and more. A note at the end encourages readers to be adventurous like a scientist and lists resources for further learning. Lots of attention given to the performing arts and literature, with references to The Tempest, Romeo and Juliet, To Kill a MockingbirdHamlet, and other works.

Positive Messages

Encourages kids to "believe in the unexpected" -- to be open to new experiences and never be afraid of failure. You can learn from your mistakes. Friendship is just as important as romance.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Melvin teaches Ellie that it's OK to fail and that it's important to experiment in science and in life. Ellie continues to pursue her passion for science. Raj is an honest and loyal friend.


Ellie thinks someone broke into her house. Melvin passes out in a restaurant and an ambulance takes him to the emergency room. Ellie's cat, Jonas Salk, gets sick.


Characters have crushes and go on awkward first dates. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Third Mushroom by Jennifer L. Holm (Babymouse, Squish, Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf) is a hilarious and heartwarming sequel to The Fourteenth Goldfish that encourages kids to "believe in the unexpected" -- to be open to new experiences and understand that it's OK to fail. There are plenty of positive messages about curiosity and friendship, but parents should also be prepared to talk about some of the book's thought-provoking themes including the loss of a pet and loneliness.

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Kid, 11 years old August 19, 2019

What's the story?

In THE THIRD MUSHROOM, seventh grade brings lots of change for Ellie. Her best friend, Raj, asks her out on a date. Her former best friend, Brianna, suddenly wants to hang out with her again. And her grandpa, Melvin -- still in the body of a teenager after he found a way to reverse aging -- is spending more time in the library with Mrs. Barrymore instead of eating lunch with her and Raj.

When Ellie and Melvin decide to work together on a project for the county science fair, life starts to get even more interesting. They might have figured out how to stay young forever! But then Ellie's cat gets sick, making her wonder if their revolutionary discovery is the key to saving her beloved pet. With all the new scientific and social experiments happening in their lives, will Ellie and Melvin be able to handle the results?

Is it any good?

Fans of Book 1 in this series will love this hilarious and charming sequel. In The Fourteenth Goldfish, author Jennifer L. Holm once again brilliantly packs engaging, kid-friendly tidbits about influential scientists with tons of relatable middle school issues such as puberty and awkward first dates. Readers, even those who haven't read The Fourteenth Goldfish, will love Ellie and Melvin's shared passion for science and appreciate how they learn to embrace the changes in their lives. Holm delicately depicts the loss of a beloved pet as well as Melvin's loneliness, before offering a satisfying and heartwarming conclusion that will leave readers smiling.

Change can be scary and often unpredictable, especially in middle school, but The Third Mushroom shows kids that trying new things can lead to unexpected happiness.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The Third Mushroom explores the transition to middle school. Why do you think there are so many books about this? Have you found any that relate to your own experience?

  • Melvin trusts books over the internet for research because he thinks that the internet is full of "false information." Do you agree? Do you know how to find reliable reference and research resources online?

  • How do the characters demonstrate curiosity? Why is that an important characteristic?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love science and fantasy

Themes & Topics

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