Starfish
Starfish

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Annotation: Bullied and shamed her whole life for being fat, twelve-year-old Ellie finally gains the confidence to stand up for herself, with the help of some wonderful new allies.
Catalog Number: #299689
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Penguin
Copyright Date: 2021
Edition Date: 2021
Pages: 244 pages
Availability: Available
New Title: Yes
ISBN: Publisher: 1-9848145-0-8 Perma-Bound: 0-8000-0051-X
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-1-9848145-0-0 Perma-Bound: 978-0-8000-0051-6
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2020019298
Dimensions: 21 cm.
Language: English
Reviews:
Publishers Weekly
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 find 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. Agent: Liza Fleissig, Liza Royce Agency. (Mar.)
School Library Journal Starred Review
Gr 5 Up A charming novel in verse about a girl struggling with self-worth. Ellie is a middle school girl who is bullied every day for her weight. Whether it comes from classmates, siblings, or even her mother, Ellie is constantly bombarded with comments about her size. Luckily, her friends help keep her head up most of the time. When her best friend Viv moves away, a new friend, Catalina, fits right into her place. Ellie's dad is also an ally; he stands up to Ellie's mom and decides to take Ellie to a therapist. With the help of Dr. Wood, Ellie learns how to feel comfortable in her own skin. Once readers start, it will be difficult for them to put this book down. Ellie's story is heartbreaking and raw at times, and Fipps paints a realistic picture of bullying in a world that equates thinness with beauty. Ellie's own family, except for her dad, also buy into that ideal, calling her "Splash," making fun of her, and cataloguing everything she eats. True joy comes in watching Ellie gain confidence in herself and standing up to the bullies, even when they're family. The race of most characters is not mentioned. Catalina and her family are Mexican American. VERDICT A must-have for libraries serving teens and tweens. Lisa Buffi, Sterling M.S., VA
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
A girl seeks acceptance rather than judgment for her size.Eleven-year-old Texan Ellie loves to swim in her backyard pool even though a cannonball during her fifth birthday party earned her the nickname “Splash” and endless jokes about whales. She maneuvers through life following unspoken “Fat Girl Rules,” chief among them, “Make yourself small.” Ellie dreads the start of sixth grade, partially because her best friend just moved away, but mainly because classmates bully her at every turn. The worst, though, is her mother, with her endless stream of derogatory comments, obsessive monitoring of Ellie’s food intake, and preoccupation with bariatric surgery (which Ellie knows is unsafe). Thankfully, Ellie has support in compassionate educators, tried-and-true friends, her beloved pug, and her more considerate psychiatrist father, who finds Ellie a therapist to work through her pent-up feelings. As a self-proclaimed poet, Ellie has a strong command of words, and she learns how and when to use them to defend herself. She also makes friends with her new neighbor, whose Mexican American family can empathize with being judged on appearances. Fipps’ verse is skillful and rooted in emotional reality. The text places readers in Ellie’s shoes, showing how she is attacked in many spaces—including by strangers on public transit—while clearly asserting that it’s other people who need to change. Half-Jewish, half-Christian Ellie is cued as White.Make room in your heart for this cathartic novel. (Verse novel. 9-13)
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* Ellie is doing her best, but it never seems to be enough: not for her mom, who insists Ellie's weight is something to be fixed; not for her peers, who taunt her with unimaginably cruel words; and not even for herself. She doesn't mind being fat, but she does mind how she's treated for it. Now, as the threat of bariatric surgery grows, Ellie must find it within herself to stand up to the ones who pushed her to create the Fat Girl Rules cluding herself. Fipps bursts onto the middle-grade scene with her debut, a verse novel that shines because of Ellie's keen and emotionally striking observations. As she draws readers in with her smart and succinct voice, Ellie navigates the difficult map of knowing she deserves better treatment while struggling with the conflict that's necessary to achieve it. Fipps hands her young narrator several difficult life lessons, including how to self-advocate, how not to internalization of the words of others, and what it means to defend yourself. Ellie's story will delight readers who long to see an impassioned young woman seize an unapologetic victory.
Reviewing Agencies: - Find Other Reviewed Titles
Starred Review ALA Booklist (12/1/20)
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews (12/1/20)
Starred Review for Publishers Weekly (12/1/20)
School Library Journal Starred Review (2/1/21)
Word Count: 25,879
Reading Level: 4.1
Interest Level: 5-9
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.1 / points: 4.0 / quiz: 510597 / grade: Middle Grades
Guided Reading Level: N
FOR JUST A WHILE
 
I step down into the pool.
The water is bathwater warm
but feels cool
compared to the blisteringly hot air.
Kick. Gliiiiiiide.
Stroke. Gliiiiiiide.
Side to side
and back again.
Dive under the surface.
Soar to the top.
Arch my back.
Flip. Flop.
 
As soon as I slip into the pool,
I am weightless.
Limitless.
For just a while.

 
NAME-CALLING
 
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 ever let you live it down.
 
Ever.
 
 
SPLASH IS BORN
 
Now, whenever I swim,
I use the steps to ease into the water,
careful not to make waves,
because the memory
of my pool party plays
in my head like a video on a loop.
 
It was my fifth birthday.
I wanted to be the first one in, so
I ran to the edge and
leapt into the air and
tucked my knees into my chest.
 
Water sprayed up
as I sank down.
I bobbed to the surface,
expecting cheers for
the splashiest cannonball ever.
 
That didn't happen.
 
"Splash spawned a tsunami!"
my sister, Anaïs, shouted.
"She almost emptied the pool,"
my brother, Liam, chimed in.
I dove under,
drowning my tears.
 
I wish I could tell everyone
how they made me feel that day--
humiliated,
angry,
deeply sad.
 
But every time I try to stand up for myself,
the words get stuck in my throat
like a giant glob of peanut butter.
 
Besides, if they even listened,
they'd just snap back,
"If you don't like being teased,
lose weight."
 

FAT GIRL RULES

 
Some girls my age fill
diaries with dreams and
private thoughts.
 
Mine has a list of
Fat Girl Rules.
 
You find out
what these unspoken rules are
when you break them--
and suffer
the consequences.
 
Fat Girl Rules
I learned
at five:
No cannonballs.
No splashing.
No making waves.
 
You don't deserve
to be seen or heard,
to take up room,
to be noticed.
 
Make yourself small.
 

WHAT, WHY, WHO, HOW, WHEN

 
The first Fat Girl Rule
you learn hurts the most,
a startling, scorpion-stinging soul slap.
 
Something's changed, but you don't know
what.
You replay the moment in your mind from
every possible angle, trying to understand
why.
Why the rules exist and
who.
Who came up with them and
how.
How does anyone have the right to tell you
how to live just because of your weight?
 
Mostly, you remember the smack of
the change.
One minute you were like
everybody else, playing around, enjoying life,
and then,
with the flip of an unseen cosmic switch,
you're the fat girl,
stumbling,
trying to regain your balance.
Acting as if you know what you're doing, like
when
you used to play dress-up
and tried to walk
in high-heeled shoes.
 

THE GIFT

 
Every time I see a pudgy preschooler,
I want to hand her my list,
like the answer sheet for a test,
to spare her the pain of learning
the rules firsthand.
 
But instead,
I give each girl the gift
of more days,
weeks,
and months
of a normal life.
 
Whatever that is.
 

BELLIES DANCING

 
Viv's mom caught her dad with
another woman and said Texas
wasn't big enough for the three of them.
So now my best friend has to move
to Indiana.
 
In my backyard, we livestream
the Latin Music Festival
on an outdoor screen
as part of her going-away party.
 
Viv starts belly dancing
like she learned in a class at
the Dallas Public Library,
where her mom was a librarian.
I follow her lead and
our arms morph into snakes
as our hips figure-eight.
 
My dog, Gigi, a pug,
runs circles around us as
we sing at the top of our lungs
along with the bands and
dance with complete abandon,
like you do when you're alone in your room
trying out some new moves
or making up some of your own.
 
Except it turns out
we're not
alone.
 

THE NEW NEIGHBOR

 
Mid-twirl, I open my eyes to see
a girl's head pop up over the fence,
then disappear and reappear.
 
This trampoline girl
saw me shake parts of me
I didn't even know I had.
 
"What do you think you're doing?"
I stop dancing so fast
I about give myself whiplash.
 
I see her head again.
"IheardDíasDivertidos."
She says it so quickly it's like one word.
She disappears and reappears.
"Couldn'thelpmyself."
In a flash,
she climbs over the fence
and lands in front of me.
"I'm Catalina Rodriguez."
 

A POET AND A MUSICIAN

 
Catalina points to the concert on the screen.
"Wow! So you like Días Divertidos, too?
I have all their songs on my playlist."
 
"Me too," I say.
 
"Who else do you listen to?"
 
"Don't get Ellie started."
Viv rolls her eyes.
If eye-rolling were an Olympic sport,
she'd be a gold medalist.
 
"I'm a poet, so
I love music because
lyrics are sung poems," I say.
"Rap and country are my faves."
 
"I'm a guitarist," Catalina says.
"I like all music but love Latin."
 
She chooses her words carefully, like me.
But she's not like me.
Catalina's skinny
like a pancake.
I'm more like a three-tiered cake.
 
My fatdar should be sounding the alarm.
Why isn't it?
 

THE THING ABOUT FATDAR

 
Fatdar is a lot like
Spider-Man's Spidey sense,
a sixth sense.
 
Somehow we just know when
someone's about to say
something hurtful or
do something mean.
 
Even in a crowd,
I can spot a fatphobe,
someone who's grossed out
by overweight people.
Fatphobes give off this vibe.
Part discomfort.
Part shock.
Part fear.
Part anger.
 
And all hatred.
 

SHADOWS

 
" 'Baila conmigo'!"
Catalina shouts as the next song starts
and she dances with us.
 
"Teach me that one move, Ellie," she says.
"Which one?"
"The one where you were
kinda kicking your leg
while you spun."
 
When I dance
knowing Catalina's watching,
I feel every pound of my legs,
see my fat shake,
and notice how round
my shadow on the grass is
next to her angles,
so I stop.
 
Fat Girl Rule:
Move slowly so
your fat doesn't jiggle,
drawing attention to your body.
 
But that uncomfortable-in-my-own-skin feeling
fades as the music blares
and Catalina squeal-screams,
going all bananas with us,
during the tribute to Selena.
 
If dance partners were food,
Catalina and I would be
peanut butter and jelly.
Cookies and milk.
Chips and salsa.
We're different, but
make a perfect combo,
heads, hips, and hands
moving in sync.
 
Right on cue as the sun sets,
the katydids start their singing,
fast and furious since
their tempo's based on heat
or maybe Selena's bidi-bidi-bom-bom beat.
 
"Catalina, dale las buenas noches
y ven a casa," a woman's voice calls out.
"Gotta go," Catalina tells us.
"Thanks for letting me crash your party."
 
She climbs back over the fence,
then trampolines.
"Can'twaittocomeoveragain."

Excerpted from Starfish by Lisa Fipps
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Ellie is tired of being fat-shamed and does something about it in this poignant debut novel-in-verse.

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.


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