How to Be a Goldfish by Jane Baird Warren Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Two kids discover the meaning behind found families and friendship as they search for a way to save a neighbor’s farm in author Jane Baird Warren’s “How to Be a Goldfish”. 


The Synopsis

When her class is assigned a family tree project, Lizzie knows hers will become fodder for Scotch Gully’s town gossips. It’s 1981, and she’s the only one with an unmarried mom. So she turns to her neighbour Harry for advice, but he has problems of his own. A stranger has turned up, claiming to own his farm, and Harry is being forced out.

For David, the new owner’s son, everything is riding on this. The farm is his chance to escape the city and his bullies at school. And maybe even get his mom away from her horrible new fiancé. But he wasn’t expecting to find someone else living there.

Lizzie and David become surprising allies, and as their family stories crack wide open, they uncover the keys that could save Harry and his farm. But sharing long-buried secrets has a cost too. Can they trust themselves — and each other — to find the way forward together?

How to Be a Goldfish is a gripping story about lost and found family, fierce friendship, warm griddle cakes, and finding the courage to be who you were always meant to be. 

The Review

This was such a fun and unique read. The author did a great job of crafting a narrative that felt vibrant and alive on the page, while also infusing elements of nostalgia with the unique setting of the 80s. The thing that immediately stood out to me was how the author managed to incorporate several different styles of genres into the book, ranging from children’s books to Middle School age and even some YA elements as well. This made the story feel relevant to all types of readers and gave some heart to the larger themes of the story.

The balance between the author’s character development and the larger themes mentioned previously was so well done in this book. The relatable and reliable protagonists Lizzie and David made the story feel more engaging as the narrative kept turning, and the complex stories woven into the fabric of the novel kept all the characters interesting, even the narrow-minded and hateful Bethany. Yet it was the emotional way the story lent itself to the themes of family that is found rather than already had, and the importance of friendship and acceptance of oneself that made the whole book really come together.

The Verdict

Stunningly relatable, entertaining, and empowering, author Jane Baird Warren’s “How to Be a Goldfish” is a must-read novel of 2022 for children, middle-aged kids, and YA fans alike! The book moved at a quick pace, and yet held so much character composition and impactful themes that helped the narrative shine brightly through. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy on October 4th, 2022! 

Rating: 10/10


About the Author

A first-generation Canadian, Jane is a writer with an MFA in creative writing from the University of British Columbia. Her writing has been featured on CBC radio and in more than a dozen literary magazines in North America and the UK. She is represented by Elizabeth Bennett at Transatlantic Literary Agency. 

Jane also works freelance as an editorial consultant and volunteers as a developmental editor for emerging writers.


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