The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson

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The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: I found this to be an emotional read that manages to be both detective story and a book about children's mental health. Funny and endearing and dreadfully sad, all rolled up in an extremely readable story.
Buy? yes Borrow? yes
Pages: 400 Date: January 2017
Publisher: Scholastic
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781407170992

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Matthew has OCD. Not that he knows that's what it is. He just likes things clean, he really hates germs, or going outside, and he feels safest upstairs in his room and the front bedroom, where he can control the dirt, and where he can watch everything that's going on outside, making notes on his neighbours' activities. When a little boy, Teddy, from next door goes missing one day, it turns out that Matthew was the last person to see him, and with all of his neighbours as suspects Matthew struggles against his crippling anxieties in order to try and uncover the truth of what happened to Teddy.

This was an extremely readable book. Matthew is very likeable as a character, and as a reader you desperately want him to get help, so that he can recover from the dreadful fears and anxieties that are crippling his life. Without knowing the truth of what led to his problems (another mystery to be solved within the story) you understand Matthew's problems, and feel so very sorry for him in the increasingly difficult situations that he finds himself. His illness is brilliantly handled, as well as his parents' responses to it. They have no idea what has triggered it, or quite how long it's been going on, and his mum and dad respond in different ways, with neither of them really knowing how to help Matthew and both of them managing to make things worse, without meaning to. It's easy to see how an anxiety unshared can escalate until it dominates a child's life, and Matthew's obsessions, with cleanliness and with the number 13, are understandable, believable, and deftly handled.

Because of Matthew's isolation at home, the book deals with loneliness, and also friendship, since he slowly starts to build a relationship with a girl living in the close, Melody, who becomes embroiled in both Matthew's investigation into Teddy's disappearance as well as Matthew's OCD. There's another boy in the close too, Jake, who initially appears to be the bully of the story but who we slowly learn more about, discovering that he was once Matthew's best friend and that he, too, is living with his own problems and difficulties. Each character is cleverly handled, and the problems and issues around friendship and loneliness are written about intelligently and in an understandable way. Matthew's OCD is sensitively handled, descriptive so that we understand his issues, and emotional as we see him dealing with those issues, meeting a therapist and finally confronting the darkest fears within his heart.

So, with a book dealing with OCD, mental health, physical health problems, loneliness, bullying and the disappearance of a toddler you'd think it would be dark and dreadfully depressing? Somehow it manages not to be! The book works very well since all the various characters we meet and suspect along the way are well drawn and interesting. The mystery has layers upon layers, and as in an Agatha Christie, we flit from thinking that almost anyone could have done it! I didn't guess the ending, and I really liked the reveal of how Matthew and his friends figure everything out. Although there are unsettling moments, there are lighter moments too. Matthew remains likeable throughout, and because we are hoping for the best for him, the book itself remains hopeful too.

Books often give us a gateway into understanding someone else's life, and I think this book is particularly important, as a children's book, since it shows the quirks and oddities that make up a variety of different characters, and how their behaviour does not necessarily define who they truly are. Very readable, and definitely recommended. Further reading suggestion: With a similar title, but a different (yet also moving) subject matter, you might also like to try Fish Boy by Chloe Daykin.

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Buy The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson at


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