By Lois Lowry. Published 1987.
Anastasia’s winter break is coming up, and it seems like everyone she knows is going skiing. But Anastasia will take going into Boston to take a modeling course, where she’s promised to learn increased poise, confidence, and maturity.
Awesome Parents are a little wary of Anastasia taking the bus into the city alone. But Anastasia also has an assignment, a paper on her chosen career, and she has to interview someone with said career. Anastasia wants to be a bookstore owner, and her father knows Barbara Pages, owner of Pages. He had wine and cheese party there when his last book came out. So Awesome Parents allow her to do it.
Anastasia is full of worries her first morning, like she actually got on the bus to New York. But she’s on the right one, and she finds the address of Studio Charmante without any trouble. But she’s not too impressed with the building. It’s above a jewelry store, up a set of dark stairs. She’s deciding whether or not to go up, when a pretty black girl named Henry, short for Henrietta, comes in. They give each other courage.
The couple in charge insist on being called Aunt Vera and Uncle Charley. The other people in the class are Helen Margaret, a very shy girl, and Bambie, a pageant girl, who is just the opposite. And then Robert Giannini walks in, and Anastasia is less than thrilled to see him.
The first thing they do is record each of them talking a bit about themselves on video. This will be the “before” videos. Helen Margaret can barely talk, Bambie does Juliet’s death scene, and Robert speaks about the U.S. Space Program.
At lunchtime, Anastasia walks to Pages. Barbara turns out to be a very nice woman, but not so great at business. She lets people return books, or suggests they go to the library. Anastasia is confused on how she pays the rent, but there is none; she and her husband own the whole building, and he makes enough money for the two of them. They talk so much that Anastasia never gets to her interview, but Barbara tells her to just come back on Wednesday.
On the second day, they do makeovers. Helen Margaret gets her hair out of her face, and it turns out she’s beautiful. Anastasia gets a good haircut, and it makes her look prettier and older. But Henry gets the real transformation. They cut her hair completely off, and she’s gorgeous. Anastasia knows she’ll actually be a real model, and be able to go to college. She’s really happy for her.
On Wednesday, Anastasia goes back to Pages, and Henry comes along. They show Barbara what they learned that morning, which was how to walk. They were supposed to try to walk like an animal. Henry chose a panther, and she totally owned it. Anastasia chose a lioness, but she ended up tripping, so she decided she was more like a giraffe. Barbara shows them a book about Africa, and there’s a Masai woman who looks just like Henry, and she’s beautiful.
They still don’t get to their interview, but Anastasia does sell a copy of her father’s book over the phone, so that’s a win. And Barbara gives them some books. Anastasia gets a book for Sam and an animal book with giraffes, and Henry gets some books for her nephews and the Africa book.
Anastasia goes home that night for dinner with Henry’s family. Her father will be taking her home. He’s a policeman, and Anastasia works up this whole big thing where they have to respond to an emergency on the way and she gets kidnapped. That doesn’t happen though. They just have a nice dinner, and an uneventful ride home in an old car just like the Krupnik’s.
On Thursday, the class has fashion consultations. A lady from Filene’s comes with sample clothes for them to try on. Bambie and Robert go, and then it’s Helen Margaret’s turn. She goes into the dressing room with Aunt Vera, then freaks the hell out, and runs away. Robert goes after her. Neither of them return that day, but Robert eventually calls, saying he found her, and they’ll be back the next day.
On Friday, they do the “after” videos, and they’re supposed to talk about what they got out of the course. Bambie just does her monologue again, and hasn’t changed a bit. Anastasia thinks the most important thing she got out of it is her new friend, Henry. Henry thanks everyone who helped her see she could be successful and rich.
Robert and Helen Margaret get up together and talk about the day before. Robert followed Helen Margaret to a psychiatrist’s office. Helen Margaret lives with her aunt and uncle because her immediate family died in a fire last year, and Helen Margaret was burned, and she has all sorts of scars from the fire. That’s why she freaked about taking off her clothes. She can’t wear anything that’s not long-sleeved. She says maybe someday, but not yet.
At lunch, Anastasia calls Barbara to thank her for the books she gave them. And she finally gets around to asking the questions she had planned. Barbara answers them, but Anastasia expands on the answers herself. She thinks she’ll be a pretty successful bookstore owner. More successful than Barbara anyway. She does worry about what she’ll name the store though, since she doesn’t have a last name as perfect as Page.
o The course costs $119, and Anastasia pays for it herself, with the money she earned working for Daphne’s grandmother.
Robert starts talking about chest hair at one point, and it freaks Anastasia out. She has to think about Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood so as not to hear him.