Must read middle grade

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Starfish by Lisa Fipps is an incredibly heart wrenching novel in verse. This book is about Ellie, a fat girl who is sick and tired of being shamed for her weight. She is happiest when she’s in the pool and can escape to her safe space. Ellie has a very difficult, emotionally abusive relationship with her mother.

To be honest, it was very hard to read these scenes but I think it will make tween readers who are dealing with the same type of bullying feel like they’re not alone. Ellie has a fierce ally and protector in her father. She also sees a therapist who compassionately gives her the tools to stand up against hate. And I loved that Ellie had a core friend group who would be there for her no matter what. She has people on her side who love her and celebrate her just as she is. Throughout the novel, Ellie uses their love to boost her own self-worth and she learns how to stand up for herself.

This is a tough, emotional read but it discusses healing and acceptance. Ellie does not have to magically forgive everyone who’s ever bullied her and she does not have to love her body every single day. Ellie learns that forgiveness and love are journeys with ups and downs. This is a must read–both for kid readers and for any adult who interacts with kids. This book also provides Jewish rep!