Beauty Cookson isn't beautiful. Her father chose her name because he wants her to be a confident, popular girl. She tries to fit in, but she's plain and awkward. All the girls at school make fun of her and have nicknamed her Ugly. Her mother thinks she needs a fun, creative nickname, something like . . . Cookie! But kids at school can't just be told to call her Cookie. And, even worse, her Dad doesn't approve. His already bad temper reaches frightening new heights. Will Cookie find the strength to stand up to her dad? And will she find a way to be the person she wants to be?
About the Author
JACQUELINE WILSON is the author of 100 books, including Candyfloss and Best Friends (both available from Square Fish). Together, her titles have sold over 30 million copies worldwide. She was the 2005-2007 British Children's Laureate and has won many major literacy awards, including the Guardians Children's Fiction Award, the Smarties Prize, and the Children's Book of the Year. In 2007 she became the first children's book author to be named a Dame. She lives in Kingston-on-Thames, England.
Read an Excerpt
I turned on the television. I timed it perfectly. The music was just starting. I saw the cartoon picture of Sam and Lily spinning around, Sam waving, Lily delicately nibbling a carrot. They whirled faster and faster while a voice sang, “Who do you want to see?”
Little children piped up: “Sam and Lily in the Rabbit Hutch!”
I sang it too, but very quietly, just mouthing the words. There was only Mom at home and she was out in the kitchen. She wouldn’t mind a bit if I wanted to watch a baby show like Rabbit Hutch but I still felt embarrassed about it. Imagine if some of the really mean, snooty girls at school, Skye Wortley or Emily Barrington or Arabella Clyde-Smith, came barging through our front door and caught me watching a TV show for five-year-olds. They teased me enough anyway. I could hear them screaming with laughter over Beauty and her little bunny-wunny friend in the Rabbit Hutch.
I shut my eyes tight.
“Hey there!” said a soft gentle voice from the television.
I opened my eyes. There was Sam smiling at me, the real man, not the funny cartoon picture of him. I smiled back at him. I couldn’t help it. He had such a lovely funny grin. His brown eyes shone and he ducked his head a little so his soft shiny brown hair flopped across his forehead.
“How are you doing?” Sam asked.
“I’m fine,” I whispered.
He nodded and then looked down at Lily. He was holding her close against his chest. He needed both hands because there was a lot of Lily. Her lop ears brushed the collar of Sam’s checked shirt, while her back paws dangled past the belt of his jeans. Sam held her firmly so she felt safe. She relaxed against him, slowly blinking her blue eyes. She knew he would never ever drop her.
“I wonder what you’ve been doing today?” said Sam, looking at me.
“School,” I muttered.
“Which one?” Sam asked.
“Lady Mary Mountbank. I started there last year,” I said, sighing.
“Is it that bad?” said Sam sympathetically.
I considered. It wasn’t all bad. Rhona Marshall had asked me to her birthday party. She’d given my arm a special squeeze as she gave me the pink invitation card and said, “I do hope you can come.”
I liked Rhona a lot, even though she was best friends with Skye. Rhona never ever joined in the horrible Beauty routine. She just looked embarrassed and raised her eyebrows at me and once she whispered, “Take no notice.” This was sweet of her, but how could I help noticing when they were chanting stuff right in my face.
Miss Woodhead had been kind to me too. She especially liked my Roman project. I know this sounds as if I’m showing off, but she said I was a joy to teach. She said it quietly just to me and I went bright pink I was so pleased. But one of the others heard her and by break time half the class were muttering it and then making vomit noises. Skye made such loud vomit noises she nearly made herself really sick all down her school skirt. That would have been great.
I didn’t have time to babble all this to Sam so I just shrugged my shoulders. He’d understand.
“Lily likes her school,” he said. “But her lessons are easy-peasy. One lettuce plus one carrot plus one cabbage equals one big bunny snack! Just so she doesn’t get too fat I’ve made her a new rabbit run in the garden. Do you want to go and do your exercises, Lily?”
“Shall we go and watch her?” Sam asked.
Sam carried Lily outside into the garden and gently lowered her into her new run. He’d put carrots and cabbages and lettuces at the very end of the run. Lily spotted them straight away and took off like a greyhound, her ears flapping.
“Would you run like that if your mom put your dinner at the end of the garden?” Sam joked.
Mom and I often did eat in the garden, special picnics. Sometimes we even put our coats and scarves on and wrapped blankets around us and had winter picnics.
“You bet, Sam,” I said.
Mom always made us magic picnics. She didn’t cook anything, she didn’t ever really cook, but she made each picnic special. She sometimes chose a color theme, so we’d have bananas and pineapple and cheese pasties and custard tarts and lemonade, or tomato quiche and apples and plums and KitKats and raspberry juice. Sometimes she’d choose a letter of the alphabet and we’d have sausages and sandwiches and strawberries and shop-bought sponge cake carefully cut by Mom into an S shape.
When I was little she’d lay places at the picnics for my dolls and teddy bears, or she’d let me dress up in my Disney princess dress and she’d serve everything on the best china and curtsy every time she spoke to me.
I loved loved loved my mom. Sam understood. He said the word mom softly, knowing it was a special word.
“I wonder if you miss your mom, Lily?” said Sam, squatting down beside her.
Lily nibbled a lettuce leaf, not really listening.
“Remember when you were really little, Lily, just a weeny newborn-baby rabbit?” said Sam.
He looked at me. “Do you know, she was only this big,” Sam said, cupping his hands and holding them only a little way apart.
I cupped my hands too, imagining a little fluffy baby Lily quivering under my embrace.
“Do you remember when you were just a weeny newborn-baby person?” said Sam. “I bet you weren’t much bigger. Do you have a photo of you when you were a little baby?”
I nodded. Mom still had that photo inside her wallet, though it had got creased and crumpled. Dad had the same picture in a silver photo frame on his big desk at work. It was so embarrassing. I was big and bald and I didn’t even have a diaper on. My belly button was all taped up and you could see my bottom.
“I bet you looked cute then,” said Sam, chuckling.
I didn’t smile back at him. I nibbled my lip miserably. I didn’t look remotely cute when I was a baby, but at least I was cuddly. Mom said she held me all day and half the night too, she was so happy to hold me. She said she cried because she was so thrilled she’d got a little girl.
Dad cried too.
Most dads don’t cry, especially very very very tough dads like mine. My dad actually cries a lot. He cries at films on the television, even children’s cartoon films like The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast. He cries at the news on television, when a little child is rescued in an earthquake or when a man with artificial legs runs in a race. He cries heaps whenever his favorite wins on The X-Factor or Star Search. He said I was his little star with that special X-factor the day I was born. He scooped the newborn-baby me out of Mom’s arms and cradled me close.
“Just what I wanted! A little girl at last,” he crooned. “And such a beautiful little girl too, with those chubby cheeks and big blue eyes. Just wait till your hair grows, my darling. I bet you’ll be a little blonde like your mom. You’re going to turn into a perfect beauty.”
Then he let out such a yelp I started crying.
“I’ll take her, Gerry,” Mom said anxiously.
“Beauty! Don’t you get it? That’s her name, our little sweetheart’s name! We’ll call her Beauty,” said Dad. “Isn’t that a great name for her, Dilly?”
Mom promised me she thought it was an awful name, but you didn’t dare argue with Dad, even in those days.
I was christened Beauty. It’s a ridiculous name. It would be a silly show-off shallow name even if I just magically happened to be beautiful. But I am so not beautiful. I don’t take after Mom, I take after Dad. I am small and squat, with a big tummy. My blue eyes turned green as gooseberries when I was still a baby, and you can’t really see them anyway because I have to wear glasses. My hair’s mousy brown, long and lank. Mom tries to tie it up with clips and ribbons but they always fall out. You can see why Emily and Arabella and Skye tease me so. I am a laughingstock because of my name.
I wasn’t laughing. I had silly baby tears in my eyes now, safe with Sam and Lily.
“Hey, don’t cry,” said Sam.
I sniffed, ashamed. “Not crying,” I mumbled.
It seemed to be raining inside my glasses. I poked my finger up and tried to make it work like a windshield wiper.
“Why don’t you clean them on the corner of your T-shirt? Your glasses will get all smeary wiping them like that,” Sam said softly. “So what are you not crying about?”
“My silly name,” I sniffed. “Beauty!”
“I think Beauty’s the most special name in all the world.”
“No it’s not. And it doesn’t suit me,” I said tearfully. “Skye Wortley at school says I should be renamed Plug Ugly.”
“Silly old Skye,” said Sam. “I expect she’s so mean because she’s jealous of you.”
“Oh, Sam, that’s the first time I’ve ever heard you say something stupid,” I said. “As if someone like Skye would ever be jealous of me. Skye’s got lovely long, wavy, fair hair and big blue eyes—sky blue—and she’s clever and she’s great at dancing and she’s got Rhona as a best friend and—and—”
“Well, you’ve got sand-colored hair and great green eyes and you’re even cleverer than Skye and who cares about dancing and you’ve got Lily and me for your best friends,” said Sam.
“Truly? You and Lily are really my best friends?
“Absolutely definitely, aren’t we, Lily?” said Sam, bending down and scratching her head. She stopped nibbling the cabbage, looked up, and nodded her head so vigorously her ears flapped forward.
“Well, you’re my best friends for ever ever ever,” I whispered rapturously.
We smiled at each other, the three of us.
“See you tomorrow, Beauty,” Sam whispered.
Then he raised his voice.
“Nearly time to go now. Time we were getting back to the hutch, Lily. You’ve had enough dinner now. Maybe it’s time for your dinner? I wonder what you’re having? Lily’s favorite dinner is raw cabbage, as you can see, but somehow I don’t think raw cabbage is your favorite best-ever food. Still, maybe your pet likes it. Why don’t you send me a painting or drawing of your pet’s favorite food? Send it to Sam at the Rabbit Hutch, OK? Bye then.” He waved, then picked up Lily and helped her waggle her paw.
“Lily’s waving good-bye too,” said Sam.
“Bye, Sam! Bye, Lily!” I said.
Rabbit Hutch faded, and the cartoon Sam and Lily whirled around and around and the voice said, “Who have we just seen?”
“Sam and Lily in the Rabbit Hutch,” I sang.
“Sam and Lily in the Rabbit Hutch,” Mom sang too, coming in from the kitchen. “Do you want a little snack, sweetheart? I’ve bought a couple of those little pink iced buns, the ones with jam inside.”
“But Dad said I wasn’t to eat them anymore,” I said.
I’d had a pink iced bun when we were all walking around the Flowerfields shopping center. I’d bitten into it and jam spurted all down the front of my best blue frilly top. Dad had knocked my hand hard so that the bun flew out onto the floor.
“Don’t you ever buy her that pink jammy muck again,” he’d hissed at Mom. “Look, she’s ruined her best little blouse. She shouldn’t be stuffing her face anyway, she’s getting ginormous.”
Mom had meekly promised not to buy me any more buns and had pulled me into the ladies’ room to sponge all the jam off. I’d cried a little bit and she’d given me a hug but begged me to cheer up because I’d make Dad worse if he saw me with a long face. I’d done my best, though I’d felt particularly mournful as the pink buns were my favorites.
“Dad won’t know if you gobble it up now,” said Mom. “Hang on half a tick.”
She disappeared into the kitchen and came back with two pink buns on her best little green-leaf cake plates.
“Here, I’ll keep you company,” said Mom.
We both sat cross-legged on the furry white hearth rug, eating our buns.
“Yum, yum,” I said.
“Yep, yummy yummy,” said Mom.
“I’d better not spill jam all down me again,” I said.
“Me too!” said Mom, licking the icing on her bun as if it was a lollipop.