Hidden Gems: The Goldfish Boy

Have you heard of the book, The Goldfish Boy? It is Lisa Thompson's first novel and it is a winner. This is an excellent addition to a classroom library, most suitable for grades 4 - 6. The strength of this story, is its character development, and students will really want to find out what happens to both the main character and supporting character.
Have you heard of the book, The Goldfish Boy? It is Lisa Thompson's first novel and it is a winner. This is an excellent addition to a classroom library, most suitable for grades 4 - 6. The strength of this story, is its character development, and students will really want to find out what happens to both the main character and supporting character.


Summary of The Goldfish Boy

Matthew Corbin is 12 years old, but he doesn't go to school. He refuses to leave the house, and his parents don't really understand why. Instead, he spends his days in his bedroom cleaning and watching his neighborhood from his window. As his street tends to be sleepy, he doesn't have a lot to watch, but he does keep a journal of what he sees.

When his elderly neighbor babysits his two young children for an extended time, things get much more interesting. One day, the toddler goes missing, and Matthew was the last one to see him. As the days go by without the little boy coming home, Matthew slowly pushes his boundaries in order to find him. He makes an unlikely team with a lonely neighbor, Melody, and Jake, former friend turned bully.

Teaching The Goldfish Boy: Character Development and Theme

The character development in The Goldfish Boy makes readers really care about what happens. Although Matthew has problems, the reader slowly learns more and more about why he doesn't want to leave the house. Even Matthew doesn't really understand what is wrong with him, but eventually his parents make him go to the doctor. Matthew is so likable, the reader wants him to get better.

In addition to Matthew, Melody and Jake are also slowly developed in the story. Melody starts as this weird girl who visits the cemetery, and Jake is just a bully who bothers Melody on the street. The author does a wonderful job slowly building the information about these characters.

A teacher could use The Goldfish Boy to discuss how characters change and develop over the course of a novel (Common Core Reading Standard 3.) Inference could also be taught, as the author alludes to many character details. Why might the elderly neighbor be mad that Matthew won't babysit? With this book, teachers can really get students to think about what motivates someone and why people do things. Students could be assigned to follow a character and keep track of new information about that specific person.

Theme could be easily taught using this novel.  For me, I took away a strong message of "Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover." For so many of the characters, the other characters assume things about them that turn out to be false. Matthew is just treated as weird or strange for staying inside. Melody is that girl that dresses weird and visits the cemetery all the time. Jake is just a bully, until Matthew recalls how the other students made fun of Jake's eczema and allergies. Even the kids misjudge their neighbors when they are trying to solve the mystery.

The Goldfish Boy has a lot to offer an upper elementary literature program.  The theme of this book will appeal to many readers and can really help students to understand what causes a character to change over time.

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