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Becoming buoyant

Cover of Starfish
A review of Starfish by Lisa Fipps

Eliana Elizabeth Montgomery-Hofstein
  That's my name,
  My bestie, Viv,
  and my parents call me
  Ellie or El.
  But most people call me Splash
  or some synonym for whale.
  Cannonball into a pool,
  drenching everyone,
  and wear a whale swimsuit
  to your Under the Sea birthday party
  when you're a chubby kid
  who grows up to be a fat tween
  and no one will let you live it down.

The nickname Ellie gets at her fifth birthday party was a joke by her elder sister in front of her whole family and all her friends. And the name became a label. One that the kids at school use to bully her with and that her mother uses as a reason to constantly try and force Ellie to lose weight (for her own good). Ellie's sense of humor, her supportive (if somewhat ineffectual) dad, and her friendship with Viv have kept her going, but it's getting harder. When Viv moves away and the new school year starts Ellie isn't sure she can sustain herself anymore. But with the support of a new friend, Catalina, and some much needed reinforcement from new people in her life, Ellie begins to get out from under the labels and identities others have formed for her.

I deserve to be seen.
To be noticed.
To be heard.
To be treated like a human.

I starfish.
There’s plenty of room
one of us
in the world.

Lisa Fipps debut middle-grade novel is told in free-verse and it will break your heart and make you fall in love with Ellie. As you can guess there's a lot of fatphobia and abusive behavior Ellie endures, so be warned. But there's also a powerful message about creating our own identities and discovering who we are. "To every kid who's ever been told, 'You'd be so pretty or handsome, if...' You ARE beautiful. Now. Just as you are. You deserve to be seen, to be heard, to take up room, to be noticed. So when the world tries to make you feel small, starfish!" Lisa Fipp's dedication is one we all can take to heart, whatever our age.

Sep 8, 2023