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.” She’s found her safe space — her swimming pool — where she feels weightless in a fat-obsessed world. In the pool, she starfishes. Stretches out. Takes up all the room she wants, instead of living by the fat girl rules society taught her. The pool is 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 love 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.

How to get your hands on a copy of Starfish


What people are saying about Starfish:

A starred review from Kirkus Reviews

A starred review from School Library Journal

A starred review from Booklist

A starred review from Publishers Weekly

Horn Book

Recommended School Library Connection 

Ellie was carefree, happy, and loved swimming in her backyard pool. Sadly, all that changed on her fifth birthday when wearing a whale-themed swimsuit to match her Under the Sea birthday party theme led to family members making fun of her body shape and size. From that moment on, her weight was fair game for bullying and teasing from classmates, siblings, and even her own mother. Fast-forward to the beginning of 6th grade and her situation is worse than ever. Ellie’s best friend has moved away, her mom wants her to have bariatric surgery, and, to help navigate the relentless taunting and teasing she endures, Ellie has created a list of “Fat Girl Rules” because she believes her actions cause the bullying. However, with the help of her dad, therapist, and the new girl next door, Ellie finds the inner strength and courage to stand up to the bullies, including her mom. This beautiful, heartbreaking, and powerful novel-in-verse would pair well with media literacy lessons on body imagery, bullying, and victim shaming. The story is very engaging and readers will not want to put it down. School guidance counselors, school psychologists, and social workers will appreciate the realistic portrayal of Ellie’s therapist and the benefits of therapy for children and adults. — Kelly R. Silwani, Library Media Specialist, Olentangy Orange Middle School, Lewis Center, Ohio


2022 Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature Honor Book

Association for Library Service to Children 2022 Notable Children’s Book

2022 International Literacy Association Notable Books
for a Global Society Award Winner

National Council of Teachers of English
2022 Charlotte Huck Award Honor Book

2022 NCTE/Children’s Literature Assembly
Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts Award

Jane Addams Children’s Book Award 2022 Finalist

2022 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults winner

2022 YALSA Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults winner

Internationale Jugendbibliothek 2021 White Raven

2022 YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers

Four Starred Reviews

Publishers Weekly
School Library Journal

Best Book Lists

Publishers Weekly 2021
School Library Journal 2021
The Washington Post 2021
The Boston Globe 2021
New York Public Library 2021
Chicago Public Library 2021
King County Library System 2021
Denver Public Library 2021
Phoenix Public Library 2021
Bank Street College: The Best Children’s Books of the Year 2022 Edition

State Book Awards

Blue Hen Book Award 2023 Nominee (Delaware)
Sunshine State Young Readers Award Grades 6-8 2022-2023 Nominee (Florida)
Georgia Children’s Book Award 2022-2023 Nominee
Nēnē Award 2022 Nominee (Hawaii)
Iowa Teen Award 2022-2023 Nominee
Read Aloud Indiana 2022 Reading List
Kentucky Bluegrass Book Award 2022-2023 Nominee (Kentucky)
Black-Eyed Susan Book Award 2022-2023 Nominee (Maryland)
Maine Student Book Award 2022-2023 Nominee
Great Lakes Great Books 2022-2023 Nominee (Michigan)
Land of Enchantment Book Award 2022-2023 Nominee (New Mexico)
Sequoyah Book Award 2023 Nominee (Oklahoma)
Pennsylvania Young Readers Choice Award 2022-2023 Nominee
Keystone to Reading Book Award 2022-2023 Nominee (Pennsylvania)
Rhode Island Middle School Book Award 2023 Nominee
South Carolina Book Award 2022-2023 Nominee
Lone Star 2022 Reading List (Texas)
Spirit of Texas Reading Program 2022 List
Beehive Book Award 2023 Nominee (Utah)
Virginia Reads 2021-2022
Vermont Golden Dome Book Award 2022-2023 Nominee
Just One More Page 2022 Reading List (Wisconsin)
Indian Paintbrush Book Award 2022-2023 Nominee (Wyoming)
Surrey Schools’ Book of the Year Nominee, Surrey, British Columbia

Reading Lists

2022 Texas Library Association Spirit of Texas Reading List
2022 Texas Library Association Lone Star Reading List
2022 All Connecticut Reads Short List


Lisa received the Sagamore of the Wabash Award from Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb

A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection

2021 Project LIT Book Club Selection

Starfish is in English, Turkish, large print, and soon will be in four more languages

Starfish featured in
the New York Times, The Washington Post, and Horn Book

Lisa’s done virtual visits with thousands of students in
the United States, Canada, and China

Endorsements from the back cover

“Readers will rejoice as Ellie gains the strength to confront bullies with intelligence and honesty, and refuses to allow other people’s cruelty to shape her life.” —Padma Venkatraman, award-winning author of The Bridge Home

“This is a big, beautiful book about a big, beautiful girl … An honest, heartbreaking, hilarious novel in verse from a debut author with a delicious voice.” —Sonya Sones, award-winning author of What My Mother Doesn’t Know

“For a reader of any age, it is a revelation to feel seen in the book you’re reading. For middle grade readers, it can be life-changing. Starfish will be this life-changing book for so many kids and teens, and it will be an eye-opening book for many more. Lisa Fipps’ spot-on verse gives Ellie a wrenchingly real voice that sings with humor, pain, and hope. Prepare yourself: once you read this book, your heart will never be the same.” —K.A. Holt, award-winning author of many middle grade novels-in-verse including House Arrest

What bloggers and reviewers are saying

“This amazing and powerful story by debut author Lisa Fipps is helping to usher in a body positivity movement in youth literature.” Laura Frantz, Collection Development Librarian, Somerset County Library System of New Jersey 

@thebookmommy on Instagram: “… [O]ne of the most powerful novels in verse I have ever read: moving beyond measure, equal parts devastating and uplifting, and jaw-droppingly gorgeous. It will be eye-opening for many, as it was for me, and life-saving for others. My daughter loved it as much as I did. … Lisa Fipps’ … raw, intimate free verse packs a punch on every page, even as it seamlessly weaves together a larger story. In addition to kids, EVERY PARENT (and anyone who works with kids) should read this. Just incredible.” 3.1.21

What people on Goodreads are saying

“I read this … in a single sitting and finished with tears pouring down my cheeks. This book is blunt and beautiful.”

“Fipps has created a haunting story about the power of words and the strength of friendship. Starfish is necessary and heartbreaking and perfect.”

“I wish that this book had been around when I was in middle school. A book about body positivity is unfortunately few and far between.”

“Fipps will break your heart with her real and raw narrative, but the genuine heartfelt message … will help put the pieces back together and encourage readers to find support and realize that everyone, regardless of size, is worthy of love and respect.”

“What an important and life-saving book, beautifully written and impossible to put down. The emotions are so raw and real. Hand this to any child who is bullied for the way he or she looks, particularly for being overweight.”

“So many crucial topics were touched on in this book, and they were all dealt with in a realistic way. … Everyone should read this book; it’s empowering, hopeful, funny, and something truly needed in today’s world.”