The Story Behind STARFISH: An MG Debut by Author Lisa Fipps

STARFISH by Lisa Fipps is a middle grade debut novel that is getting a lot of starred reviews and accolades for good reason. This novel-in-verse centers around a topic not usually seen and long over due in kid lit: fat-shaming. Here’s the blurb for this book:


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.

I asked the author LISA FIPPS how the story came about. Here is what she had to share.

When you’re a kid, you want to read books about people like you. I was a fat kid. A book like Starfish was nowhere to be found on library and bookstore shelves when I was in elementary and middle school. So, I wrote it. I didn’t hold anything back. Starfish gives readers a true-to-life glimpse into what it’s like to be a fat kid. At times, it’s brutal. Most readers and reviewers talk about how much they cry when they read it. But the bullying that fat kids endure is brutal. If fat kids – fat people in general – are ever going to be treated well, people need to understand the hatred they endure.

Here are some of the takeaways for kids. I want any fat child to realize they deserve to be treated like a human. Quite frankly, fat people, even fat kids, are treated like things. Monsters.

I want fat kids to stop thinking there’s something wrong with them and to realize there’s something wrong with people who are cruel.

I want fat kids to unashamedly take up their space, their place in the world. I want bullies to see themselves – really see themselves. See how their words and actions devastate others.

And I want parents, teachers, and other adults to see that they have a responsibility to stop bullying when they see it. Most importantly, they need to understand that they themselves can be bullies. They may mean well when they bring up a child’s weight. But the way they go about trying to show concern is, sadly, usually all wrong.

Starfish is opening up doors for me to talk to kids via virtual visits, be on panels for various author events, and write for blogs and publications. I love that. What I also love is that reviewers are recommending that adults read it as much as children. But the best part is when I hear from early readers about how Starfish is changing lives. One reader wrote this on Goodreads:

“My niece, who swears she would never wear short sleeves and hides herself in oversized clothing in order to hide and blend in to the background, asked me if we could go shopping for clothes after reading this book.”

That little girl is starfishing! I cry every time I think of that. It’s exactly what I wanted to happen.

STARFISH will debut on MARCH 9, 2021. You can order your copy on Amazon, or at any independent bookstore.

To help celebrate the launch of this important book, Lisa is giving away one of her awesome STARFISH BOOK BAGS. Starfish book bag

To be entered in the random drawing, leave a comment below. If you share this post on social media, let me know and I will enter your name twice.

Lisa Fipps is an award-winning former journalist, current director of marketing for a public library, and an author of middle-grade books. Starfish is her debut novel. Find her at, and as authorlisafipps on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Author Lisa Fipps with white background


8 thoughts on “The Story Behind STARFISH: An MG Debut by Author Lisa Fipps

  1. I saw Lisa’s book on Twitter the other day. Really happy to see her book, beautiful cover. Both of my daughters struggled with weight when they were young, because they never felt like they “fit it.” This is heart breaking, so I’m glad Lisa is tackling an issue that many young girls face.

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