Models Don't Eat Chocolate Cookies by Erin Dionne
Release Date: February 2009
Eighth grader Celeste Harris is no stranger to being the big girl. At school, she is taunted by mooing and nicknames like “Burrito Grande” by many of the popular kids. And while Celeste may not be picture-perfect, give her comfy sweatpants, a stack of Oreo cookies, and her long time best friend (Sandra) and life isn’t so bad. Well, that was until the HuskyPeach Modeling Challenge entered her life. Thanks to her aunt, she finds herself trapped into a contest she wishes to be no part of. Sure, everyone would love to be a model, but when you add the word plus to it…well, Celeste would rather not think about it. Thankfully, she has plan on to get out of the competition without quitting.
Launch Operation Skinny Celeste. It’s all about no Oreos, no snacks, and certainly no big slices of her aunt delicious dessert with ice cream. After all, if she’s no longer husky there’s no way she can be Miss HuskyPeach, right? Right?! Striving to lose the competition any way possible, Celeste lands in humiliating and disastrous situations. Despite it all, she learns that what matters most is to do what you want (no matter what anyone else thinks) and to have fun along the way. With the chance to pull out of the final round Celeste must make a choice: will she run away or will she return to have fun no matter what the outcome may be?
First, I have to state how much of a difference one year can make in my mind. Due to an error on the back of the book, I began Models Don’t Eat Chocolate Cookies under the impression that Celeste was only twelve years old in seventh grade. This really warped my perception of the book. I kept yelling over and over in my head that no twelve year old should be worried about dieting and losing weight. I wanted to hug her, give her more cookies, and tell her it would be okay. Okay, I know this is illogical and that kids of all ages get teased and worry about body image, but something about actively dieting at twelve just didn’t sit right with me. Of course, the truth is that Celeste is really in eighth grade and is thirteen. When Celeste finally states what grade she’s in my defenses did lower a bit more. The story became more believable to me at that point. However, her grade level didn’t come out until I was a good way through the book and was at that point it was little hard to change my mindset. (I do realize it states early on that she is thirteen, but it didn’t fully sink in until much later. And I think the seventh grader part still irked me for somereason.)
I will also warn you that Models Don’t Eat Chocolate Cookies is not really about body size acceptance. Celeste does diet, she does lose weight, and she does feel better herself due to it. However, she does it in a healthy manner. She switches cookies for apples, stops snacking so much, and starts walking more with her friends. It was really more about a healthy life style than a crash course diet. In fact, she probably only loses a fraction of her overall weight goal. Celeste’s self esteem does go up with her weight loss, but her happiness isn’t solely based on it. Sometimes new clothes and a new look can go a long way, but during her transformation she learns more about who she is. She discovers how to stand up for herself, what she likes, and to find enjoyment even in the most undesirable situations. It made for a very realistic approach to body image for teenage girls.
In the end, I’m very glad I got to meet Celeste. She was charming, humorous and very likable. Her voice is what really makes the book and even with my other issues I never stopped rooting for her. I look forward to seeing what future stories Dionne offers.