The standing starfish pose is something I demo and offer to students who need an energy boost. It’s an effective stretch, especially right after lunch.

The stretch is a signature move for the main character, Ellie, in the stunning debut novel by Lisa Fipps. The sixth graders and I had such forceful reactions to Ellie’s experience as a self-described Fat Girl with her Fat Girl Rules, verbally abusive mother and siblings, an no shortage of school-based bullies, too. Slowly, Ellie’s mindset shifts from self-loathing to self-love with the help of her supportive father, friends, and an astute therapist. As a former school counselor, I am always heartened when therapists are portrayed as competent and relatable in children’s literature. Dr. Wood’s approach to engage the reluctant Ellie in therapy were some of the strongest sections of the book.

Gigi, Ellie’s pug.

Starfish allowed ample opportunities for me to showcase the reading comp technique I employ, the Notice & Note Signposts developed by Probst & Beers, within the classroom. Students embraced that structure for close reading. They cheered Ellie on throughout her journey of self-discovery and shouldered a fair amount of her pain. Ultimately, they stretched themselves as readers and I’m so glad I was able to gift them this well-crafted work.

Published by Lauren