cover image Starfish


Lisa Fipps. Penguin/Paulsen, $17.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-9848-1450-0

Told in verse, this affirming representation of fatness stars Ellie Montgomery-Hofstein, 11, who, to avoid the bullying she’s endured since the age of five, lives by the Fat Girl Rules—the unspoken rules one learns “when you break them—/ and suffer/ the consequences.” Finding solace from taunts and judgment in her fenced-in backyard’s pool, Ellie, who is half-Christian, half-Jewish, and presumed white, enjoys sprawling in the water like a starfish, weightless and free. When her best friend Viv moves away, Ellie feels alone at her Dallas, Tex., school, but she soon forms a tentative bond with her new neighbor, Catalina Rodriguez, whose boisterous, loving Mexican family makes her feel accepted for who she is. With support from new friends, her father, and a therapist who acknowledges her feelings and helps her discover her voice, Ellie finds the strength to stand up to her bullies, including her mother, who pressures Ellie to undergo bariatric surgery, and verbally abusive older siblings. Fipps’s use of verse is as effective as it is fitting; Ellie dreams of becoming a storyteller and poet “to help people feel what it’s like/ to live in/ someone else’s skin.” A triumphant and poignantly drawn journey toward self-acceptance and self-advocacy. Ages 10–up. [em]Agent: Liza Fleissig, Liza Royce Agency. (Mar.) [/em]