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Ellie is tired of being fat-shamed and does something about it in this poignant debut novel-in-verse. Ever since Ellie wore a whale swimsuit and made a big splash at her fifth birthday party, she’s been bullied about her weight. To cope, she tries to live by the Fat Girl Rules–like “no making waves,” “avoid eating in public,” and “don’t move so fast that your body jiggles.” Ellie is tired of being fat-shamed and does something about it in this poignant debut novel-in-verse. Ever since Ellie wore a whale swimsuit and made a big splash at her fifth birthday party, she’s been bullied about her weight. To cope, she tries to live by the Fat Girl Rules–like “no making waves,” “avoid eating in public,” and “don’t move so fast that your body jiggles.” And she’s found her safe space–her swimming pool–where she feels weightless in a fat-obsessed world. In the water, she can stretch herself out like a starfish and take up all the room she wants. It’s also where she can get away from her pushy mom, who thinks criticizing Ellie’s weight will motivate her to diet. Fortunately, Ellie has allies in her dad, her therapist, and her new neighbor, Catalina, who loves Ellie for who she is. With this support buoying her, Ellie might finally be able to cast aside the Fat Girl Rules and starfish in real life–by unapologetically being her own fabulous self.


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Ellie is tired of being fat-shamed and does something about it in this poignant debut novel-in-verse. Ever since Ellie wore a whale swimsuit and made a big splash at her fifth birthday party, she’s been bullied about her weight. To cope, she tries to live by the Fat Girl Rules–like “no making waves,” “avoid eating in public,” and “don’t move so fast that your body jiggles.” Ellie is tired of being fat-shamed and does something about it in this poignant debut novel-in-verse. Ever since Ellie wore a whale swimsuit and made a big splash at her fifth birthday party, she’s been bullied about her weight. To cope, she tries to live by the Fat Girl Rules–like “no making waves,” “avoid eating in public,” and “don’t move so fast that your body jiggles.” And she’s found her safe space–her swimming pool–where she feels weightless in a fat-obsessed world. In the water, she can stretch herself out like a starfish and take up all the room she wants. It’s also where she can get away from her pushy mom, who thinks criticizing Ellie’s weight will motivate her to diet. Fortunately, Ellie has allies in her dad, her therapist, and her new neighbor, Catalina, who loves Ellie for who she is. With this support buoying her, Ellie might finally be able to cast aside the Fat Girl Rules and starfish in real life–by unapologetically being her own fabulous self.

30 review for Starfish

  1. 4 out of 5

    Reading_ Tam_ Ishly

    ***Made it to TOP 10 favourites of 2021*** Yes, no one understands you. Not even your family. Let me cry tonight. I feel you, girl. I feel you. This book is one classic example of how things start from our own families. The reason why we let people bully us, why we accept less than what we should, why we lack confidence and why we ultimately end up hating ourselves and doing the same to others that we don't even know. The mother. Yes, it's almost always the women in our lives that make our lives hel ***Made it to TOP 10 favourites of 2021*** Yes, no one understands you. Not even your family. Let me cry tonight. I feel you, girl. I feel you. This book is one classic example of how things start from our own families. The reason why we let people bully us, why we accept less than what we should, why we lack confidence and why we ultimately end up hating ourselves and doing the same to others that we don't even know. The mother. Yes, it's almost always the women in our lives that make our lives hell. I am telling you it's not always the men, the boys or the strangers. The way we are being judged right from the moment we wake up. She's your daughter for god's sake! Let her learn things her own way. Don't destroy her. It's because you do it to your daughter that gives power to your other children, the neighbours,the friends, the relatives and even the strangers to judge her, bully her, make mean comments, pass casual remarks, shaming her whenever they want. And you say she needs therapy! Nothing will help unless you stop being too critical and judgemental towards your child. She's growing up. Know this first. It's the crucial time you her build her a strong character. (You know the best books I read where mothers/fathers/parents give their best to their daughters in bringing them up are Becoming by Michelle Obama, I'm Malala, Unfinished by Priyanka Chopra.) See the difference for yourself. No parenting guide book will help you like these books. Parents in the name of doing the best for the best for their kids actually do more harm than they know. Speaking from personal experience. And it's still ongoing. So yes, books like this are triggering yet at the same time more eye-opening for me. Hail you, girl. Hail author! The writing is flawless. The characters are so real. It's almost personal! The true friendship the main character has. We all deserve that. And we women should always empower each other. Starting from our own families. Stop shaming us for all the possible "flaws" you see in our weight, appearance, style, habits, work, cooking and EVERYTHING else. We aren't the flaws

  2. 5 out of 5

    Gary Anderson

    In Starfish (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2021), the middle grade novel-in-verse from debut author Lisa Fipps, Ellie is bullied about her weight both at home and at school. Of course, it bothers Ellie—especially her mother’s hurtful comments—but her spirited self-talk helps her get through each day, along with support from her dad, her new friend Catalina, and Catalina’s family. Bullying books are plentiful in young adult literature, and some of the bullying tropes have sadly become trite, but the episo In Starfish (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2021), the middle grade novel-in-verse from debut author Lisa Fipps, Ellie is bullied about her weight both at home and at school. Of course, it bothers Ellie—especially her mother’s hurtful comments—but her spirited self-talk helps her get through each day, along with support from her dad, her new friend Catalina, and Catalina’s family. Bullying books are plentiful in young adult literature, and some of the bullying tropes have sadly become trite, but the episodes in Starfish are horrifyingly fresh and authentic, and it’s no wonder. In her “Author’s Note,” Lisa Fipps tells us that “a variation of every single mean thing people said or did to Ellie happened to me when I was a child.” Much of the impact of Starfish comes from things that people say to each other. Ellie talks not only to herself, but also to her friends, family, therapist, and tormentors. Fipps effectively uses the novel-in-verse format to heighten the effect of the words these characters choose to torment, confront, question, and comfort each other. Among Ellie’s supporters is her school librarian. I especially love Ellie’s offhand librarian tribute: “It’s unknown how many students’ lives / librarians have saved / by welcoming loners at lunch.” There is also something satisfying about Ellie confronting and fighting back against her bullies, although those episodes carefully convey how revenge differs from self-defense. Ellie’s voice makes Starfish an illuminating, important, insightful book for young readers who may see themselves or their classmates in her story. Although Ellie’s situation involves her weight, Starfish is really about how each person deserves to be treated with kindness and respect. This review appeared in slightly different form on my What's Not Wrong? blog.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ashlie Elizabeth

    I read this entire galley in a single sitting and finished with tears pouring down my cheeks. This book is blunt and beautiful. There are literally a dozen people I want to buy copies for. I love the concept that this book was originally going to be for a YA audience until it was realized that a middle grade book would catch young people as their identities were developing and they needed the message the most. Ellie fat and relentlessly bullied for her size. Her biggest tormentor? Her mother. Wi I read this entire galley in a single sitting and finished with tears pouring down my cheeks. This book is blunt and beautiful. There are literally a dozen people I want to buy copies for. I love the concept that this book was originally going to be for a YA audience until it was realized that a middle grade book would catch young people as their identities were developing and they needed the message the most. Ellie fat and relentlessly bullied for her size. Her biggest tormentor? Her mother. With the help of a talk therapist, Ellie realizes she does not deserve this treatment (an extremely difficult first step) and begins to stand up for herself. I love that this is not a linear process. Some ways of defending feel good. Some don't. Some people apologize and aren't forgiven immediately. There is more than one fat character (even though that part is a little vague). It's brutal to read this, especially if you are a fat person who has dealt with some of these comments and actions. HOWEVER, there is catharsis here. I wish I had read it younger.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    This book is gutting and uplifting and empowering. I devoured it. I love the messages in here about loving yourself, sticking up for yourself and showing kindness. I want to buy five thousand more copies and give them to everyone who has ever felt like they don't matter because of their size. This book is gutting and uplifting and empowering. I devoured it. I love the messages in here about loving yourself, sticking up for yourself and showing kindness. I want to buy five thousand more copies and give them to everyone who has ever felt like they don't matter because of their size.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jennie Smith

    This book is a much needed book for all ages. Ellie is a character that anyone who has been made fun of overtly or subtlety for their body can relate to. You will laugh, you will cry, and you will fall in love with this story. This book should be on every teacher and parents bookshelf!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia

    Some books are just therapy. They’re the books you needed as a kid. They’re the books you need right now. Giving Starfish five stars feels like a disservice to the powerful piece of fiction that it is. Since I operate on a one to five star scale, I suppose I’m stuck, but this book deserves more than that. It is officially my favorite book of 2021 and is now standing alongside A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness as my favorite of all time. In this middle grade novel written in free verse, I had the p Some books are just therapy. They’re the books you needed as a kid. They’re the books you need right now. Giving Starfish five stars feels like a disservice to the powerful piece of fiction that it is. Since I operate on a one to five star scale, I suppose I’m stuck, but this book deserves more than that. It is officially my favorite book of 2021 and is now standing alongside A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness as my favorite of all time. In this middle grade novel written in free verse, I had the pleasure of getting to know Ellie, an eleven year old who loves to write and swim and who has been bullied for her weight for years. The fat shaming doesn’t just happen at school. In her own home, her only ally is her dad, and she is constantly made to feel ashamed for her size. She cannot even pick up healthy food without being criticized. I related hardcore to this book. I won’t go into my personal details, but I will say that so much of what Ellie expressed made sense to me and conjured a lot of emotion. Lisa Fipps writes with eloquence, while still capturing the voice of a young, insecure girl perfectly. Just about every short chapter made me pause to reflect or catch my breath. Ellie’s story is heartbreaking, but it’s also a story of personal growth and self-acceptance. We, as the readers, learn alongside Ellie about how our own words can hurt, along with how we can defend ourselves in healthy ways. It’s really amazing what Fipps managed to do with this novel and I really hope that she will grace the world with more of her work in the future. I do believe that many children can find meaning in this story, but there are also adults who have never learned their own value. They can benefit from its beauty as well. While I’d like to believe that some bullies could read this and reconsider the impact of their words, I know that won’t likely be true for most of them. But if the rest of us stand firm in our right to take up space, maybe they won’t have as many words to fling at us. There is no doubt that Lisa Fipps put her whole heart into this story. If you’ve ever been wounded by the cruelty of others, I know you’ll find pieces of your own heart reflected within these pages.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lorie Barber

    Equally heartbreaking and breathtaking, made even more so by the author’s choices to write in free-verse 1st person. Ellie’s story will resonate with so many middle graders. But it is the ones who are not like her, who do not see her, or see her and loathe her for what she looks like and not who she is, those are the kids with whom I’ll share this book. Immediate buy for my classroom library. Thank you to Nancy Paulsen for sending this exquisite book for my #bookexpedition group to share.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    I am going to need some time to silently weep about this one. I’ll be over in the corner in a ball...then I will rise up into my Starfish stance. Powerful middle grade novel in verse out next month. If you have ever been made to feel less than because of your body, this book will make your heart ache, but I also hope it inspires you to stand up and demand the space you deserve.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    Oh, how I enjoyed this! I got my hands on this book in the late afternoon and read it all in the same day. Though I do not typically enjoy free verse, Lisa Fipps uses the form masterfully in this novel about middle-schooler Ellie who struggles with self-image, namely, her weight. Though this novel covers a lot of topics --body shaming, confidence, bullying, physical distance with friends, pressure from parents-- the free verse style communicates all of Ellie's experiences and feelings with both Oh, how I enjoyed this! I got my hands on this book in the late afternoon and read it all in the same day. Though I do not typically enjoy free verse, Lisa Fipps uses the form masterfully in this novel about middle-schooler Ellie who struggles with self-image, namely, her weight. Though this novel covers a lot of topics --body shaming, confidence, bullying, physical distance with friends, pressure from parents-- the free verse style communicates all of Ellie's experiences and feelings with both minimalism and power. I was surprised by the depth of this book. Not only does Ellie do some challenging emotional exploration with her awesome therapist (seriously, we're talking a light-saber wielding woman who asks Ellie the tough questions!), but she struggles with finding the balance of standing up for herself without putting others down. Her journey is not without its up and downs, as she says things she later regrets and executes some pretty sassy, albeit creative, messages to her controlling mother. All in all, this book was a joy and I only hope we see more from Lisa Fipp in the future!

  10. 4 out of 5

    mihkaila

    Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Teen for gifting me an e-arc in exchange for an honest review Starfish follows Ellie, a girl being bullied because of her weight. Her Texan school is full of fatphobic people, as is her family. Her best friend Viv has just moved away, and her new friend Catalina has just moved next door. Throughout the book, Ellie deals with fatphobia, the change of her best friend moving away, the pressure to lose weight put on her from her mother, seeing a therapist for Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Teen for gifting me an e-arc in exchange for an honest review Starfish follows Ellie, a girl being bullied because of her weight. Her Texan school is full of fatphobic people, as is her family. Her best friend Viv has just moved away, and her new friend Catalina has just moved next door. Throughout the book, Ellie deals with fatphobia, the change of her best friend moving away, the pressure to lose weight put on her from her mother, seeing a therapist for the first time, and meeting a new friend with a family who doesn't care about weight. This book hit me harder than I expected. I don't read a lot of middle grade, but picking this up was a great decision. The conversation around familial fatphobia was something that resonated with me a lot, and I'm really glad that this book exists. Ellie was such a strong, kind person and I just know that she'll go on to inspire a lot of people. Catalina and Viv were great friends who I wish I would have had when I was Ellie's age, and Gigi was the most adorable pug ever. The characters were well developed and my opinions on them were strong, which I really liked. Ellie standing up for herself to everyone was very powerful and made me so happy. Her acts of kindness at the end with Enemy Number 3 and her mom showed how much she grew and changed throughout the book. I don't have much to say other than I liked it a lot and will definitely read more of Lisa Fipps' work in the future. Trigger warnings for bullying, fatphobia, surgery, and near-death experiences.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Leslie M.

    One of the best books I've read in a really long time! I definitely see it being one of my favorite books of 2021. There are so many wonderful things I can say about this book! People need to Read This Book!! Everyone who grew up overweight or bullied needs to read this! Those middle school could benefit from reading this book. And people who don't fit any of those descriptions need to read this book to see the impact bullying and fat-shaming has on others. It's for everyone who has felt at some One of the best books I've read in a really long time! I definitely see it being one of my favorite books of 2021. There are so many wonderful things I can say about this book! People need to Read This Book!! Everyone who grew up overweight or bullied needs to read this! Those middle school could benefit from reading this book. And people who don't fit any of those descriptions need to read this book to see the impact bullying and fat-shaming has on others. It's for everyone who has felt at some point in time that they didn't fit in. Fipps addresses important topics, such as bullying and weight bias (including that in the medical field and even family members). She also sheds light on the importance of therapy, another topic that is frowned upon by many in society. I love poetry, so I really liked the fact that the story is told via short poems/verse. It works well and lends insight into Ellie's character. I absolutely adored Ellie, and my heart broke for her. I applauded her for her growth, as well as how she learned to stand up for herself. I also loved the concept of starfishing, to occupy the space everyone is entitled to and deserves. Hopefully readers will walk away from the last page with the reminder to think before they speak. A kind word goes a long way. Some of my favorite quotes: - "Does everybody make somebody feel like a nobody?" - "But it's a lot easier to toss into the trash the thoughts others have about you than the ones you have about yourself." - "Untrue, negative thought: The higher my weight, the lower my value. True, positive thought: A scale does not determine your worth." Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy from Bookish First and the publisher, but I wasn't required to leave a positive review.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Christina

    Animated bookstagram: https://www.instagram.com/p/CIomCEkAy... This book hits close to home. I wish I could’ve read Ellie’s story after being mocked at a pool party when I was 10 or hearing “she has such a pretty face, if she only lost weight...” when I was 14 at my school locker. Debut author Lisa Fipps novel in verse, STARFISH (March 9, 2021), candidly and poignantly tells the highly emotional story of Ellie who is relentlessly bullied about her weight. She can’t even escape the fat-shaming in Animated bookstagram: https://www.instagram.com/p/CIomCEkAy... This book hits close to home. I wish I could’ve read Ellie’s story after being mocked at a pool party when I was 10 or hearing “she has such a pretty face, if she only lost weight...” when I was 14 at my school locker. Debut author Lisa Fipps novel in verse, STARFISH (March 9, 2021), candidly and poignantly tells the highly emotional story of Ellie who is relentlessly bullied about her weight. She can’t even escape the fat-shaming in her own home. Fills will break your heart with her real and raw narrative, but the genuine heartfelt message (my eyes were misty reading the dedication) will help put the pieces back together and encourage readers to find support and realize that everyone regardless of size is worthy of love and respect. I adored the starfish metaphor/symbolism and the challenging and sometimes overwhelming steps Ellie takes to believe in it herself. Her thoughts are utterly relatable and I found her so likable as she searched for the courage to stand up to her bullies. Compelling and empowering, STARFISH deserves a place on every bookshelf.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    i came across this book on bookishfirst & i was lucky to win an ARC of if. while reading the first few chapters, i immediately knew that this was a book for me. growing up, i’ve always dealt with being a little overweight. doctors have always told me i needed to lose weight & like the main character Ellie, my mother has been making comments about my weight ever since i was around 11 years old. Ellie has to deal with being bullied at school, called names by her classmates because of a nickname give i came across this book on bookishfirst & i was lucky to win an ARC of if. while reading the first few chapters, i immediately knew that this was a book for me. growing up, i’ve always dealt with being a little overweight. doctors have always told me i needed to lose weight & like the main character Ellie, my mother has been making comments about my weight ever since i was around 11 years old. Ellie has to deal with being bullied at school, called names by her classmates because of a nickname given to her by her own sister. at home, she has to deal with more personal bullies : her brother who seems to have some deep hatred for her “ruining his life”, a sister that sits back & watches it all happen & a mother who’s constantly making fatphobic comments, trying to shame Ellie into losing weight, making her go on diets & pushing the idea of weight loss surgery... on a 12 year old. All the while, her best friend has moved across the country so she feels alone until meeting her new neighbor who makes her feel better about being who she is. with the help of Catalina, her therapist & her father, Ellie is able to overcome some of her fears & trauma. she’s able to starfish & not be ashamed of her body! this is a beautiful story & the way it’s written is lovely! the chapters are written in the style of poems with titles for each chapter & it’s broken up to look like a poem. i’m not sure if there’s a specific word for this style of writing but i thoroughly enjoyed it. i spoke with the author over instagram & she’s absolutely lovely! i hope lots of young teens read this one!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    I wish I had more stars to give this one. Oh my goodness where to start? There are so many people that need to read this book immediately. Every little girl overweight or not needs to read it. The girls who are overweight need to hear that they are important and that they are not alone. And all girls (maybe even all kids) need to read this book to see the impact bullying has. I also think every mother of daughters should receive this book in the hospital before taking said baby girl home and the I wish I had more stars to give this one. Oh my goodness where to start? There are so many people that need to read this book immediately. Every little girl overweight or not needs to read it. The girls who are overweight need to hear that they are important and that they are not alone. And all girls (maybe even all kids) need to read this book to see the impact bullying has. I also think every mother of daughters should receive this book in the hospital before taking said baby girl home and then must be required to read it again annually. As a mother of two daughters this book struck me right to the heart. At first I thought I don’t have to worry about anything my oldest is only 3, I don’t have to be careful. However, Ellie was only 4, yes FOUR, when she remembers feeling inadequate to her mother. The impact that her mother’s words and actions have on Ellie is heart wrenching. I need to read this book again and again with my girls. The poetry style writing fits so well. I normally am not a fan of this style but it worked so well here. The cover art gives a good depiction of the book. I will be recommending this book 100x over to my friends with kids of any ages.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Hâf

    Starfish is an utterly heart-breaking middlegrade novel about the constant abuse, neglect and bullying a fat child receives on a daily basis. The repetitive vile words and cruel actions Ellie experiences will definitely come as a shock to many readers, it may come across as unrealistic... but it is not. The author herself has experienced some of the scenes from this novel and has included them in Ellie's story because of this. It was difficult to read Starfish at times as an adult, so I can't be Starfish is an utterly heart-breaking middlegrade novel about the constant abuse, neglect and bullying a fat child receives on a daily basis. The repetitive vile words and cruel actions Ellie experiences will definitely come as a shock to many readers, it may come across as unrealistic... but it is not. The author herself has experienced some of the scenes from this novel and has included them in Ellie's story because of this. It was difficult to read Starfish at times as an adult, so I can't begin to imagine how a child such as Ellie must feel from the fatphobia she experiences everywhere. I loved the character development we witnessed in Ellie, she hit a turning point around halfway through the story and the grew in strength and self-confidence from then on. All Ellie needed was a supportive friend, an adult who believed in her and the belief in herself that she was worthy of anything. We need to be that supportive friend or adult when instances of fatphobia occur, we need to realise the overall effect this has on individuals and make a stand against fatphobia. The only reason Starfish isn't quite a five star read for me, is that I was slightly disappointed by the lack of development and repercussions for Ellie's brother. Starfish began as a very heart-breaking novel, but garnered a lot of hope and faith as Ellie stood up for herself but it never felt as though her older brother quite realised the effect he was having on her and that he was allowed to act cruelly towards her by her parents with very little consequences and this tarnished the overall breakthrough of the story for me. I highly recommend Starfish, particularly to readers who've never experienced fatphobia first hand, it is most definitely an eye opening read.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    A sweet and strong book about a girl who is severely bullied about her weight. Starfish reminded me of Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’, but for a middle grade audience. This book is written in free verse which I thought was an interesting choice, but it worked really well. Each section was lovely in its own way and it flowed together beautifully. The pacing of the book were just right, it was hard to put down. It read so easily and quickly that I had to slow down in order to truly enjoy each unique pass A sweet and strong book about a girl who is severely bullied about her weight. Starfish reminded me of Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’, but for a middle grade audience. This book is written in free verse which I thought was an interesting choice, but it worked really well. Each section was lovely in its own way and it flowed together beautifully. The pacing of the book were just right, it was hard to put down. It read so easily and quickly that I had to slow down in order to truly enjoy each unique passage. Sometimes Ellie seems older than her 11 years, while other times her reactions were in line with her age. Despite the occasional disrespectful attitude towards adults, Ellie is an extremely likable character with strong thoughts and feelings. With lots to love, Ellie is a girl you can’t help but root for. This book is a good reminder for young and old that our words can leave a lasting impression. Thanks to Nancy Paulsen Books and BookishFirst for this advanced copy!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    A free verse about fat shaming, bullying, and the effects it can have on a child. It was an insightful read and emotional as well. Ellie is a strong eleven year old. I do like that therapy was involved in this book, it shows that therapy is okay. Ellie did fight therapy at first, which some people tend to do, but she gets use to it and even comes to enjoy it. The writing was spot on for it being in the perspective of an eleven year old. Because it was free verse, the 244 pages flew by fast! Onc A free verse about fat shaming, bullying, and the effects it can have on a child. It was an insightful read and emotional as well. Ellie is a strong eleven year old. I do like that therapy was involved in this book, it shows that therapy is okay. Ellie did fight therapy at first, which some people tend to do, but she gets use to it and even comes to enjoy it. The writing was spot on for it being in the perspective of an eleven year old. Because it was free verse, the 244 pages flew by fast! Once I started, I couldn't put it down. I think I will have my kids read it, just to give them a perspective on how bully can effect someone. Whether it's psychical abuse or mental abuse. Ellie had strong character growth, even though she's a fictional character, I'm so proud of her. She came a long way from beginning of the book to the end of the book. I would recommend this read.

  18. 5 out of 5

    TheNextGenLibrarian

    “Stereotypes stink. They give people an excuse to hate people who are different instead of taking the time to get to know them.” 🏊🏻‍♀️ Ellie is tired of being fat-shamed by bullies at her school and in her own home. The only place she feels good is in her pool, swimming weightlessly. When her best friend, Viv, moves away Ellie feels even more alone until a new neighbor, Catalina, moves in next door. The new friendship, and Ellie’s weekly visits to a therapist, help her learn to stand up for herse “Stereotypes stink. They give people an excuse to hate people who are different instead of taking the time to get to know them.” 🏊🏻‍♀️ Ellie is tired of being fat-shamed by bullies at her school and in her own home. The only place she feels good is in her pool, swimming weightlessly. When her best friend, Viv, moves away Ellie feels even more alone until a new neighbor, Catalina, moves in next door. The new friendship, and Ellie’s weekly visits to a therapist, help her learn to stand up for herself and love who she is—inside and out. 🏊🏻‍♀️ I cried several times reading this MG novel in verse. The viciousness and cruelty of those around Ellie, especially from those who were supposed to love and support her, was heartbreaking to read about. However stories like Ellie’s are true (read the author’s note) and we need books like these to show and teach empathy. Make sure you grab a copy of Starfish when it releases March 9. Thank you Edelweiss for an ARC. Ellie holds a special place in my heart.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Bridget Curtis

    I was provided this book courtesy of #Netgalley and the Publisher. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Learning to love your self and your own body is a relatable struggle for teenagers and adults alike. Ellie's been bullied about her weight since she as a little kid. But, her biggest bully...her own mother. Ellie's struggle to live by her mother's rules and her own self imposed Fat Girl Rules, make her miserable. This book tugged on my heartstrings while unfortunately ringing true to the real I was provided this book courtesy of #Netgalley and the Publisher. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Learning to love your self and your own body is a relatable struggle for teenagers and adults alike. Ellie's been bullied about her weight since she as a little kid. But, her biggest bully...her own mother. Ellie's struggle to live by her mother's rules and her own self imposed Fat Girl Rules, make her miserable. This book tugged on my heartstrings while unfortunately ringing true to the real life experiences of many teens, girls and boys alike.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ann Braden

    WOW. Lisa Fipps has given the world such a gift. STARFISH is a book that is powerful, poignant, and ABSOLUTELY necessary. It's horrifying how accepted fat shaming is and how pervasive the damaging stereotypes of fat=lazy are. Our society has needed this book for a very, very long time. Five beautiful stars for this beautiful girl's story. May she show others how to love -- and stand up for -- themselves. WOW. Lisa Fipps has given the world such a gift. STARFISH is a book that is powerful, poignant, and ABSOLUTELY necessary. It's horrifying how accepted fat shaming is and how pervasive the damaging stereotypes of fat=lazy are. Our society has needed this book for a very, very long time. Five beautiful stars for this beautiful girl's story. May she show others how to love -- and stand up for -- themselves.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Janice

    Amazing. Lisa Fipps has an amazing voice for Ellie, and I love both of them--the author and the character. This novel in verse was just what I needed to read--it's not easy, but boy is it #truth. There are plenty of people to love (Ellie, Val, Catalina and her family, her school librarian, the counselor) and plenty of people to hate (Ellie's mom, her siblings, her tormentors at school) and plenty of people to feel conflicted about (Ellie's dad, Enemy Number 3, teachers). As a fellow fat girl and Amazing. Lisa Fipps has an amazing voice for Ellie, and I love both of them--the author and the character. This novel in verse was just what I needed to read--it's not easy, but boy is it #truth. There are plenty of people to love (Ellie, Val, Catalina and her family, her school librarian, the counselor) and plenty of people to hate (Ellie's mom, her siblings, her tormentors at school) and plenty of people to feel conflicted about (Ellie's dad, Enemy Number 3, teachers). As a fellow fat girl and school librarian, I felt all the love.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mary Lee

    An important book for every library/classroom library, if we're being honest about all kinds of representation. An important "walk a mile in your shoes" / own voices book for anyone who's ever had negative thoughts about a person because of their size, whether they said them out loud (like the mother, the brother, and other bullies in the story) or not. An important book for every library/classroom library, if we're being honest about all kinds of representation. An important "walk a mile in your shoes" / own voices book for anyone who's ever had negative thoughts about a person because of their size, whether they said them out loud (like the mother, the brother, and other bullies in the story) or not.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Heather~ Nature.books.and.coffee

    Listened to this on audiobook and enjoyed it! I felt so bad for what Ellie went through. Being bullied for her weight, and pressured by her own mother to lose weight. That she wasn't ok just the way she was! It's sad that this was so real, and there is such unkindness in this world. I feel like this should be read by all middle grade kids! Listened to this on audiobook and enjoyed it! I felt so bad for what Ellie went through. Being bullied for her weight, and pressured by her own mother to lose weight. That she wasn't ok just the way she was! It's sad that this was so real, and there is such unkindness in this world. I feel like this should be read by all middle grade kids!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl Mizerny

    Wow--this book brought up feelings. I fell in love with Ellie and rooted for her through this entire book. Sadly, many young people will relate to a parent with conditional love, but that is exactly why they need to read it. I am so glad it did not end with the trope of "and she lost 50 pounds and her life became perfect." Will definitely recommend to my students. Wow--this book brought up feelings. I fell in love with Ellie and rooted for her through this entire book. Sadly, many young people will relate to a parent with conditional love, but that is exactly why they need to read it. I am so glad it did not end with the trope of "and she lost 50 pounds and her life became perfect." Will definitely recommend to my students.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Erin Varley

    I didn’t mean to read Starfish in one sitting. It’s that good. Once I started, I couldn’t put it down. The novel-in-verse format is perfect for telling Ellie’s story. This book has a piece of my soul. As someone who grew up bullied about weight, Ellie’s story hit close to home. This is an important book and should be read by everyone.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Pam

    I received an electronic ARC from PENGUIN GROUP Penguin Young Readers Group through NetGalley. Wow! This debut novel captures so much of the pain felt in childhood through teen years. Words hurt and do so much damage when someone does not fit the shallow cookie cutter mold. My heart broke as the main bully Ellie had to deal with was her mother. Fipps uses poetry to tell this story. Each poem shares a different scenario and the emotions that surround it. Readers see Ellie evolve with help from her I received an electronic ARC from PENGUIN GROUP Penguin Young Readers Group through NetGalley. Wow! This debut novel captures so much of the pain felt in childhood through teen years. Words hurt and do so much damage when someone does not fit the shallow cookie cutter mold. My heart broke as the main bully Ellie had to deal with was her mother. Fipps uses poetry to tell this story. Each poem shares a different scenario and the emotions that surround it. Readers see Ellie evolve with help from her therapist. Kudos for the positive portrayal of mental health professionals and the sad but often honest statement about how chubby children and teens are treated by the medical field. This book will stay with me and will become one I recommend.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kathreadya

    I read this first look on bookishfirst. I really enjoyed the poems in this book, they paint a story with such beautiful emotion. Eliana is a fierce girl, and just from the few first chapters I was immersed into her world, and her inner struggles as a "fat girl". "The first Fat Girl Rule you learn hurts the most, a startling, scorpion-stinging soul slap." This book holds no punches. It makes you examine your own thoughts and feelings about weight while not preaching to you. I think this book is an imp I read this first look on bookishfirst. I really enjoyed the poems in this book, they paint a story with such beautiful emotion. Eliana is a fierce girl, and just from the few first chapters I was immersed into her world, and her inner struggles as a "fat girl". "The first Fat Girl Rule you learn hurts the most, a startling, scorpion-stinging soul slap." This book holds no punches. It makes you examine your own thoughts and feelings about weight while not preaching to you. I think this book is an important one, and I'm so glad this author chose to write it. I like how she chose to write it in prose as well, I think the form allows Eliana's feelings and emotions to be viewed in a unique way. It's a powerful book that should be required reading for all kids. I really enjoyed reading this first look, and will definitely be getting the book to read the rest.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Tiffani Reads

    *Thank you to Edelweiss and the publisher for giving me an advanced copy of this book to review I finished this entire book in one sitting. Once I started it, I couldn't put it down. Ellie story is a hard one to read because it talks about how shame and bullying can start in ones family. Throughout this book we learn about Ellie and her mother's issues with her weight. Ellie has always been bigger but she is by no means out of shape, she swims everyday and plays with her dog and her neighbour Cat *Thank you to Edelweiss and the publisher for giving me an advanced copy of this book to review I finished this entire book in one sitting. Once I started it, I couldn't put it down. Ellie story is a hard one to read because it talks about how shame and bullying can start in ones family. Throughout this book we learn about Ellie and her mother's issues with her weight. Ellie has always been bigger but she is by no means out of shape, she swims everyday and plays with her dog and her neighbour Catalina. Her mother cannot see past the shape of her body though. You feel Ellie's hurt, shame, self-loathing, and pain in every word of this books. She feels she will never be good enough, skinny enough, or pretty enough for her mother. You see her journey as she stands up for herself, finds allies, and becomes a stronger, more confident person. That moment when she finally stands up to her mom is just so amazing, you want to reach inside the book and hug her so tightly because you knew she had the strength inside her all along. This book is amazing and I definitely recommend that everyone pick up a copy. Plus it is written in verse which makes it extra amazing!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ms. Yingling

    E ARC provided by Edelweiss In this novel in verse, we meet Ellie at the beginning of a new school year. Her best friend, Viv, is moving away, and without her, Ellie doesn't have an ally in her battle with mean girls Marissa and Kortnee, who use any opportunity to make fun of her in their Texas private school. Ellie faces censure for her weight at home as well from her mother and older brother Liam, and older sister Anaïs, who saddled Ellie with the nickname "Splash" after a pool incident at her E ARC provided by Edelweiss In this novel in verse, we meet Ellie at the beginning of a new school year. Her best friend, Viv, is moving away, and without her, Ellie doesn't have an ally in her battle with mean girls Marissa and Kortnee, who use any opportunity to make fun of her in their Texas private school. Ellie faces censure for her weight at home as well from her mother and older brother Liam, and older sister Anaïs, who saddled Ellie with the nickname "Splash" after a pool incident at her fifth birthday party. The mother is particularly controlling and cruel, refusing to buy Ellie new clothes BECAUSE she has gained weight, posting diet articles on the refrigerator, and controlling everything that Ellie eats. Ellie's father, a psychiatrist, sees how hurt Ellie is, and makes an appointment with Dr. Wood, a therapist, for her. At first, Ellie doesn't want to talk. She's come up with her own ways of coping, including a list of "Fat Girl Rules" of how to act. While she has a good friend in new neighbor Catalina, whose family is warmly accepting of Ellie, school is still very tough. The school librarian is a bright spot, and gives Ellie a chance to work in the library over lunch, even pairing her with one of her tormentors, who is misunderstood himself, which is why he was lashing out, and the two make peace. There is no such peace to be made with Marissa and Kortnee, who mastermind a stunt that not only is mentally cruel, but results in physical harm. Even this doesn't dissuade Ellie's mother from taking her to doctor's appointments to discuss bariatric surgery, a procedure that caused serious complications for Ellie's aunt. Armed with the strategies Dr. Wood helps her craft, Ellie is finally able to confront her tormentors at school as well as her mother, and is able to embrace the good things about her body. Strengths: This is absolutely on point when it comes to modern feelings about body image in young girls, and shows Ellie's struggles in a way I haven't seen very often in middle grade books. This is not a book about a girl struggling to lose weight (as books in the past would have been), but a book about a girl struggling to come to terms with her body and the people around her who constantly harass her. It is good to see the inclusion of two supportive friends, whose families are also supportive of Ellie. Her father does the right thing and gets Ellie into therapy when he can see that she is struggling with how her mother and peers are treating her. I was also glad to see that Ellie had a dog, Gigi, who was a big comfort. There is also an excellent scene with a clothing stores for teens that has attractive clothing in Ellie's size. Weaknesses: It seemed odd that the school didn't do more to protect Ellie (teachers at my school would not tell Ellie to go home, have a good cry, and move on) or punish students who acted against her, but the author's note said that everything in the book is partially based on experiences she has had or heard of. What I really think: Novels in verse aren't popular with my students for reasons I don't understand. Unlike some novels in verse, though, this does give us plenty of information about what Ellie thinks and feels. A good addition to libraries where books about friend drama, weight issues, or personal identity are popular.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Samantha Fink

    3.25 stars Disclaimer: I received an ARC copy in exchange for an honest review. These are my personal thoughts, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Mothers always know best, right. Well not this mother. I want to slap this mother. How she treats her daughter is just mad. For people who have experienced hateful comments from family members, this book will be very helpful. The lessons that this book teaches to young people are very important. Like the lesson that you don’t need to fight i 3.25 stars Disclaimer: I received an ARC copy in exchange for an honest review. These are my personal thoughts, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Mothers always know best, right. Well not this mother. I want to slap this mother. How she treats her daughter is just mad. For people who have experienced hateful comments from family members, this book will be very helpful. The lessons that this book teaches to young people are very important. Like the lesson that you don’t need to fight in order to defend yourself. I think that there are some good things to take away from the book. I also liked the progression that the main character made as a person. She learned to be happy with who she was, and I know that that will help a lot of people. It’s important to stand up for yourself. The lessons that the main character learns throughout the story will be very valuable to the people who read this book. From the author's note, and conversations with the author, I have learned that the experiences in this book are based on real events. Some so crazy they don't seem real. It is heartbreaking to read but it will be so beneficial. This book is both deep and impactful. There are some good messages in this book and I’m sure many will find this book really heart-wrenching and moving. For me, I found it very eye opening.

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