Review of Starfish

Starfish
by Lisa Fipps
Intermediate, Middle School    Paulsen/Penguin    256 pp.    g
3/21    978-1-9848-1450-0    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-1-9848-1451-7    $10.99

Since she was five, Ellie (now eleven) has lived by a list of Fat Girl Rules: “Make yourself small”; “Move slowly so / your fat doesn’t jiggle”; “When you hear laughter, / someone’s laughing at you.” She only feels comfortable in her body when she’s swimming or spending time with her dog or her similarly fat best friend, Viv. But when Viv moves away, Ellie is alone in facing the sixth-grade bullies, who call her a whale, slam doors in her face, and — horrifyingly — loosen the screws on her desk so it collapses. It’s not much better outside of school, where strangers make rude comments, or at home, where her mother posts dieting articles on the fridge and even takes her to see a bariatric surgeon without her consent. (If it all seems too cruel to be realistic, an author’s note explains that these experiences are based on her own.) Luckily, Ellie has the support of her dad, a new friend, and an understanding therapist who teaches her to stand up for herself. Ellie’s simple and powerful free-verse poems intensify her emotional turmoil and smoothly destroy stereotypes (“They think I’m unhappy / because I’m fat. / The truth is, / I’m unhappy because / they bully me / about being fat”). Her strength in accepting herself and learning to defy her Fat Girl Rules is an inspiring reminder to all readers that they deserve to “take up space.”

From the May/June 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Rachel L. Smith

Rachel L. Smith is a content developer for an educational publisher. She holds a master’s degree in library and information science from Simmons College.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.


RELATED 

Community matters. Stay up to date on breaking news, trends, reviews, and more.

Get access to reviews of books, ebooks, and more

ALREADY A SUBSCRIBER?

We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing

ALREADY A SUBSCRIBER?