Hi, this is Sarah! I want to tell you about a book my daughter and I read this summer. Starfish, by Lisa Fipps, is the story of a girl who will steal your heart. Ellie is funny and a great writer. She loves to swim and spend time with her dog Gigi. Even though Ellie is pretty awesome, most of the kids at school don’t know it. In fact, they make fun of her every single day. Ellie can’t shop at regular clothing stores. Sometimes she can’t fit in the booth at a restaurant.
Ellie is fat.
So she makes a list of “fat girl rules” to live by in order to make herself appear smaller and get through each day. But school is impossibly hard and she doesn’t get to escape the body shaming and rejection when she comes home. Her own siblings tease her and her mother relentlessly tries to “fix” her by clipping articles about weight loss surgery and counting every bite she eats. Through friendships, her loving father, and a wonderful therapist, Ellie is finally able to love herself and start taking up the space she deserves.
We loved this book so much that we couldn’t put it down. Both of us read it in one sitting. I have always struggled with my weight. There have been times I was thin and fit right in and times I felt like the chubbiest one in the class. As an adult, I have been in great shape and I have been very overweight. I have lived through a version of Ellie’s bullies and family members and struggled to find my own self worth. This story broke my heart.
My 12 year old daughter, Jo, doesn’t know what it feels like to be fat, but she does know what it feels like to be bullied. She came home from school crying every day for a year because the other girls called her a beaver and would stick their fingers out of their mouths and make beaver sounds at her. One even forced all the others to not invite her to their birthday parties. Kids also teased her for being “too skinny” or for her surgical scar, so she identified with Ellie immediately. Her favorite scenes were those between Ellie and her therapist.
This book is a novel in verse which means it’s like a really long poem (how cool is that?!) and is such a great vehicle for teaching empathy, just like Out Of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper or Wonder by R.J. Palacio. My daughter and I had the best conversations together after finishing this middle grade novel.We both feel that every 12 year old should be reading this book in school and talking about it with their classmates.