In current American culture, the ideal body is slender, some might say skinny, and others might say emaciated. Is it a healthy body type? In Starfish, Ellie doesn’t fit that profile. And she’s not sure she wants to. But she is never far from thinking about her weight, thanks to the bullies around her.

Her mother and brother are two of the worst bullies. Her mother in particular is obsessed with Ellie’s weight, prescribing diets and calling her out relentlessly. Her brother takes permission from this to taunt Ellie. Kids at school, at social events, and even strangers on the bus feel they can say ugly things.

Ellie’s father doesn’t contradict her mother (I would be careful about that, too) but he takes Ellie to a therapist who gently works with her. Ellie has an ally her own age, her new friend Catalina. And Catalina’s family is loving and accepting. Thank heavens!

Written as a verse novel, Ellie’s emotions are honest and heartbreaking. She is smart, observant, and immensely likeable. All of that shines through in this absorbing story, written with finely balanced language. We cheer as Ellie learns to advocate for herself, to deflect what other people are saying, and to gain confidence in the fine person she is. It’s a book that will have you cheering as Ellie becomes a starfish, “claiming my right to take up space.”

written by Lisa Fipps
Nancy Paulsen Books
ISBN 978-1984814500

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