Marshmallow reviews Starfish by Lisa Fipps

Every year the book bunnies have been taking July off. In her last review before this year’s summer break, Marshmallow decided to review Starfish by Lisa Fipps.

Marshmallow reviews Starfish by Lisa Fipps.
Marshmallow reviews Starfish by Lisa Fipps.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about bullying, differences, school, or friends, then this might be the book for you.

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Eliana Elizabeth Montgomery-Hofstein hasn’t been called by her real name since she was five. The only people who call her by her real name are her parents, her best friend Viv, and her teachers. At school and at home, she is called Splash. This is because at her fifth birthday party, she jumped into her pool wearing a whale swimsuit and she made a large splash. Since then her classmates and even her siblings have been treating her terribly because she is larger than other kids. Her mother keeps trying to make her go on diets and even tries to make Ellie have bariatric surgery.

Sadly, Viv, Ellie’s best friend, has moved away. However, Ellie has found a new friend, Catalina, a girl who lives next to her but doesn’t go to her school. Ellie likes spending time with her new friend. She swims while Catalina plays her guitar. But her time at school is not so pleasant. When she walks in the hallways, everyone presses themselves against the wall because they are pretending that she is so big that she is squashing them against the wall. At home, her brother says mean things to her and her mother keeps telling her that she is too big.

Ellie tries to live by her “Fat Girl Rules”. Her “Fat Girl Rules” are stuff like, “You need to bully yourself as much as, if not more than, everyone bullies you.”, “You don’t deserve to be seen or heard, to take up room, to be noticed. Make yourself small.”, “When someone is laughing, they’re laughing at you.”, and “No making waves.”

Recently, Ellie has started to go to a therapist. Her therapist helps her deal with her emotions and process the events of her day. With her therapist, her father, and her friend, Ellie manages to brave through her life, even though it sometimes seems like everything is against her.

Marshmallow is reading Starfish by Lisa Fipps.
Marshmallow is reading Starfish by Lisa Fipps.

Marshmallow’s Review: I think that Starfish is a very moving book. It reminded me of another book I reviewed before: Blubber by Judy Blume. There, too, there was a girl who was bullied because of her size, though Starfish is narrated by the person being bullied.

Starfish is written like a poem, but it is free verse. I have not read too many books written in verse like this, but I think that it worked really well for Starfish. The poetry reminded me of the book I reviewed two weeks ago: Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson.

After reading this book, I read the author’s note, which says that everything in Starfish happened to her in some version or another. Since the author went through these experiences, she did a great job making the characters realistic and relatable. My favorite character is Catalina because she is a great friend and she is wise. But not only did the author make likable characters, she also made characters who are very unlikable. Everyone at school is mean to Ellie, but the main people who bully her are two girls and one boy. Ellie and Viv called them, Enemy Number 1, Enemy Number 2, and Enemy Number 3 (not in front of them though).

Marshmallow’s Rating: 100%

Marshmallow rates Starfish by Lisa Fipps 100%.
Marshmallow rates Starfish by Lisa Fipps 100%.

Marshmallow reviews Restart by Gordon Korman

Last year Marshmallow reviewed The Unteachables, a 2019 book by Gordon Korman. This week she reviews an earlier book by the same author: Restart, which was first published in 2017.

Marshmallow reviews Restart by Gordon Korman.
Marshmallow reviews Restart by Gordon Korman.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you liked some of Gordon Korman’s other books, such as The Unteachables, or if you want to read books about kids having second chances with friends at school, then this might be the book for you.

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): After falling off of the roof of his house, Chase Ambrose’s memory “just [goes] out the window.” He remembers how to do most things, like talking and walking, but he doesn’t know his family or his friends. He doesn’t even know his own name. All he remembers is a little blond girl in a blue dress. When he returns to his high school, it is clear that some people think of him as a hero, and some people try to avoid him as much as possible, as they are really scared of him.

At school, his “best friends” complain about the community service that they must do as a result of having damaged a school piano. When he learns this, Chase starts to wonder who he really was and who he is going to be. At lunch, he sits with a kid named Brandon who is very scared of him. At some point, Brandon realizes that Chase actually has amnesia. Many people don’t believe that Chase has amnesia at the beginning, either because they can’t believe it because they were very close to him so they do not want to believe it — this is true for Chase’s best friends, Bear and Aaron, who were two of Chase’s accomplices in their bullying of Joel Weber — or because they hate him so much and do not trust him — this is the case for Shoshanna Weber, Joel Weber’s twin sister.

Shoshanna hates Chase so much that when she sees him in Heaven on Ice, a local frozen yogurt place, she goes up to him and dumps her frozen yogurt on his head. In fact, the piano that Chase, Bear, and Aaron damaged by putting cherry bombs in it, was the same piano that Joel was playing on, resulting in him almost going into cardiac arrest. Chase eventually learns that Joel and Shoshanna’s parents had to move Joel to a different school because of Chase’s bullying. So Chase has to decide who he wants to be and who he was does not seem to be so great.

Marshmallow is reading Restart by Gordon Korman.
Marshmallow is reading Restart by Gordon Korman.

Marshmallow’s Review: I really enjoyed reading Restart. The characters are particularly realistic and they are also relatable. I do not know who my favorite character is, because I like all of them. The book is written from the perspectives of different characters. For example, one chapter might be told from Chase’s point of view and the next one might be coming from another person, for example, Brandon or Shoshanna.

Though Restart is a great book, I think that it is best for 8 and up, as the plot might be confusing for younger bunnies. The plot is not particularly complex, but younger bunnies might be confused especially if they don’t know what amnesia is. And the author uses a bad word.

I think the central theme of amnesia in Restart is interesting, though I personally wouldn’t want to have amnesia at all, and the author, Gordon Korman, does a very good job of telling it. I think it was kind of sad that Chase forgot everything about his family and friends, but when it turns out that he will get his memory back eventually, he turns out to become a nicer person, and gets new friends. In the end, in this book, it seemed like having amnesia turned out to be a good thing for him. (Again, for him.)

I think that bigger bunnies might also enjoy Restart, and I am trying to get Sprinkles to read it too. 

Marshmallow’s Rating: 95%.  

Marshmallow rates Restart by Gordon Korman 95%.
Marshmallow rates Restart by Gordon Korman 95%.

Marshmallow reviews Blubber by Judy Blume

Marshmallow reviews Blubber (1974) by Judy Blume, about school, bullying, and friendship.

Marshmallow likes reading books about school-age kids, even if there are no dragons or wizards, though she quite likes it when those kinds of things do appear. Below she reviews a classic, Blubber by Judy Blume, first published in 1974.

Marhsmallow reviews Blubber by Judy Blume.
Marhsmallow reviews Blubber by Judy Blume.

Marshmallow’s quick take: If you like books about things that happen at school, then this might be the book for you.

Marshmallow’s Summary (with spoilers): Fifth grader Jill Brenner is a part of a group of girls that bully a girl named Linda. Linda is bigger than the other kids in the class and so is bullied and mistreated. Since she gave a report on the whale and talked about a whale’s blubber, the bullies call her Blubber. Jill’s group, along with the rest of the class, tease, bully, and mistreat Linda.

The gang of bullies is made up of girls named Wendy, Caroline, and Jill. In this group they all have roles. Wendy is the leader, while Caroline is the muscle that holds the victims’ hands together while Jill does whatever Wendy says. Wendy is very manipulative. All the teachers like her and so if one of her victims tells on her, she just comes up with a lie, and then the teachers believe her, and so she does not get in to trouble. In this terrible way Wendy not only makes herself seem innocent but also makes the victim look like a liar.

On Halloween, Jill and her friend, Tracy Wu, try to get revenge on a man named Mr. Machinist (apparently he is a mean person) by putting rotten eggs in his mailbox. They put the rotten eggs in his mailbox. Then they meet Wendy and Caroline, who don’t believe that they put the eggs in his mailbox. When they show the eggs to Wendy and Caroline, Mr. Machinist catches them. They manage to get away, but Mr. Machinist takes a picture of Jill and Tracy before they can get away.

Marshmallow is pointing toward the letter Mr. Machinist sent to Jill's parents.
Marshmallow is pointing toward the letter Mr. Machinist sent to Jill’s parents.

Later Mr. Machinist sends a letter to Jill’s and Tracy’s families telling them that they put rotten eggs in his mailbox and that they need to pay. Mr. Machinist assigns them the job of raking up leaves in his backyard.

At school the girls decide that someone must have told Mr. Machinist the names of the girls in the picture. They think that it must have been Linda. Jill convinces her friends that they should hold a trial to determine if Linda is innocent or not. The trial brings an unexpected twist which changes the course of the story. 

Marshmallow’s Review: This book is written in the first person, from the perspective of Jill Brenner, who is part of the gang that bullies Linda, or as the group of bullies call her, Blubber. This fact (that the book is written in the first person) is not the only difference from most of the other books that I have reviewed though. (Ella Enchanted was also in first person.) The narrator, Jill, is just not a nice person. It is strange reading the story from her perspective. She does call Linda Blubber, which is not nice at all.

This book is about events that can occur in real life, and life doesn’t always end like “and they lived happily ever after“. This book does not end happily, but the main message (“treat others how you want to be treated“) does come through very clearly. It will make a good read for readers who appreciate books that don’t end “happily ever after” but instead leave you with things to think about.

There are some curse words in the book, which is one of the reasons why it might not be appropriate for all young readers.

Marshmallow’s rating: 90%

Marshmallow rates Blubber by Judy Blume 90%.
Marshmallow rates Blubber by Judy Blume 90%.