Despite her name, Beauty Cookson is a plain, timid girl who is called Ugly by other girls at school, especially a mean girl named Skye. Worse than the teasing in the playground, though, is the unpredictable criticism from her father. She is frequently berated for breaking any of his fussy house rules, as well as her lack of looks, confidence and friends, even though she is a wealthy girl who lives in a large house and attends a private girl's school. Beauty adores rabbits, although her father forbids her to have pets. Her favourite television show is 'rabbit hutch', a show for young children about a man and his pet rabbit.
She has no friends at all in school. The only girl who is nice to her is Rhona, Skye's best friend. However, Rhona desperately wants to be friends with Beauty, which reveals one day when Skye is at a dentist's appointment. There is another reasonably nice person at Beauty's school: Beauty's class teacher, Miss Woodhead. Finally, she is invited by Rhona to a birthday party she is holding. For the birthday party, Beauty's father forces her to get corkscrew curls and popular bullies Skye, Arabella and Emily develop a new nickname for her: Ugly Corkscrew.
Beauty tells her mother, Dilys 'Dilly' Cookson about the teasing and Dilly decides to learn how to bake cookies, even though she is an awful cook, in the hope that Beauty will get a new nickname, Cookie (a play on her surname, Cookson). Gradually, both Beauty and Dilly get the hang of making cookies and become wondrous at it.
Beauty's birthday is approaching and she is dreading it, however her father appears to turn a new leaf and act like and ideal dad. Her father organises tickets for all the girls in her class to see a stage show called 'birthday bonanza', with a chauffeur driven limousine to escort them there. Beauty invites all the girls, including Skye, and decides to give out cookies at the end of the party. Rhona gives Beauty a pet rabbit, which she names 'birthday'. The birthday starts to become unbearable when, at the show, Beauty is too shy to go on stage (the show is to celebrate people's birthdays), and he shouts at her in the limousine as well as ruining her cookies. Despite her humiliation, Beauty is determined to be called Cookie.
When Dilly and Beauty learn that Birthday has been killed by a fox after her father let him out of his cage, Dilly decides she has had enough of her husband, tells him she is separating from him and goes away in her car and takes Beauty with her. First of all, they go to the first Mrs. Cookson (Avril) who is ver nice. She lets them stay for the night until they decide to go on holiday. The holiday resort they choose Rabbit Cove, Beauty chooses it due to her craze over rabbits. They fin themselves in an idyllic seaside resort run by a man named Mike, who takes Dilly on as a breakfast chef in his B and B.
Dilly decides to let her husband know where they are, despite Beauty's objections, but after he shouts at her and calls her a 'useless dumb blonde' she terminates the call. He tracks them down, and yells at them in front of the customers in the cafe, even going as far as to accuse her of having an affair with Mike and punching him in the nose, before driving off. Even though Dilly is still living with Mike and he hints that he wants to start dating, Dilly refuses for the time being as she wants to be independent. He understands.
Just before summer, Beauty is sent to a new school where she makes friends and is nicknamed Cookie, but she still keeps in touch with Rhona by writing letters. Beauty is asked to go on 'Watchbox', a talent show that Skye really wanted to go on, due to the rise in popularity of her mother's cookies. As a treat, the producers of Watchbox invite Sam and Lily, who tells Beauty that Lily is pregnant with her own baby rabbits. Sam decides to give Beauty her own baby rabbit.