Rummanah Aasi
 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.

Review: Starfish is a gut punching yet ultimately affirming novel in verse about Ellie who seeks acceptance not judgement of her size. Ellie has no problem with her weight, but other people are not happy. Due to her weight, Ellie is constantly hounded and bullied by her classmates. At home Ellie is also not safe as her own mother makes endless stream of derogatory comments about her size, obsessively monitors what Ellie eats, and even signs Ellie up for bariatric surgery without her consent. Thankfully, Ellie does find some reprieve and has support in compassionate teachers, really friends who love her for her, her beloved pug, and her considerate father who helps Ellie find a therapist to work through her hurt and trauma of internalizing messages of being invisible.Ellie also takes charge of her own body and rejects the surgery option after finding out it is unsafe and talking with her doctor.
   For much of this novel, I wanted to shelter and hug Ellie. The keen observations of how Ellie is being treated because of fatphobia land hard and true. I was furious at her mother. When Ellie learns to stand up for herself, take up space like a starfish! and confront her mother for her awful behavior, I wanted to shout and cheer for her. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: Bullying and fatphobic comments and jokes are made in the novel. Recommended for Grades 5 and up.

If you like this book try: Chunky by Yehudi Mercado, The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler (for older readers)
1 Response
  1. This one sounds really good especially as it deals with one of the bullying/shaming that most schools, families, and society don't deal with.

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