Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield: Better than Margot Fonteyn [but not as good as Margo Black…]

28 Aug

This was the first Sweet Valley book I ever read, so I will do my best to keep the snark to a minimum


The book is about the twins and their classical ballet class, which of course they are the star pupils of despite never having done ballet before or since this book.

The ghostwriter obviously read an “ABC of ballet” dictionary, because she knows three, and only three, steps: glisse, fouette, and jete. And so in every rehearsal scene, which accounts for 50% of the book [the other 50% is Jess sulking and Liz being self-righteous]; we get a rundown of one twin or the other executing one of these steps. Having done ballet since the tender age of four, I am more than amused at Elizabeth’s ability to go from a battement glisse [on the barre] to a fouette [basically a turn on one leg with the other leg whipping in and out] to a hop on one leg, known as a jete.

But suspending disbelief, we are taken to the originally titled “Dance Studio” in downtown Sweet Valley, which is run by a French expat known as Madame Andre. The students, including the twinkies, Kerry Glen, Jo Morris and Amy “Tomboy” Sutton, are preparing for a production of Coppelia in the upcoming fall recital.

In about the first two pages, we learn that Jessica is an amazing ballerina but goes unnoticed, while Liz is pretty average and yet Madame Andre’s favourite.

“Oh Lizzie, you don’t know how terrible it is to be ignored. Madame never looks at me. She never sees my plies or my battement glises because she’s always looking at you. You’re teacher’s pet. Madame likes you 337 times more than she likes me.” Jessica reflects that perhaps she fell out of favour when she dressed up for her first ballet class. I can see why:

*Outfit recap*

Like most things that happened in the 80’s, Jessica Wakefield’s outfit seemed like a good idea at the time

She had wanted to make a good impression on Madame that day, so she’d dressed up in a new purple leotard and purple leg warmers, and pinned her hair back with barrettes that had purple ribbons hanging from them. She even put on some makeup so that Madame Andre would be sure to notice her [I sincerely hope it was purple, too].

Despite becoming a champion baton twirler and cheer-girl in just a few books, Amy Sutton is useless at ballet and lacks timing, coordination and strength. I find this extremely hard to believe. Then again, I became a state champion gymnast for the duration of just one book.

Teacher’s pet Wakefield can’t resist a snide remark about her friend’s terrible technique: “Elizabeth could see at once why Madame was always criticizing Amy. Her movements were jerky and stiff, and she always seemed to be half a beat behind the music. The worst moment came during a grand plie [Ok I lied – the ghostie knew about plies], when Amy rocked back and forth as she sank between her out-turned knees and almost went down on her bottom. This was going to be a bigger job than she’d thought, Elizabeth decided.


The audition day has arrived! Liz is grocery shopping with Nalice when Mme Andre phones Jessica at home to say she has changed the audition time and needs the twinkies at the studio, pronto. So Jessica LEAVES A NOTE FOR ELIZABETH and heads off to the audition alone [stranger danger, much?]. Of course, Liz finds the note, makes it to the audition, and wows Mme Andre to get the part of Swanilda. [Jessica! I thought better of you than this! What happened to your scheming, manipulative ways?!]

If you were expecting an exciting plot twist, you thought wrong. Its little wonder this book occupied me for no more than an hour when I first read it. And I was six.

The ensuing five chapters consist of Elizabeth being a goody-goody, Jessica whining, Madame Andre sucking up to Elizabeth, Elizabeth sucking up to Madame Andre, and the cycle repeating itself. Jessica is probably the most tolerable.

Oh, and Coppelia [the doll, basically a stage prop which the ballet is centred on] goes missing. Mme Andre nearly cracks a hernia! Elizabeth assumes Jessica has done it to ruin her chance at ballet stardom, and so for the 337th time, the twins aren’t speaking. Oh noes!

Amy Slutton Sutton offers to take the place of the doll, as in, sit on stage and do nothing. I am truly sorry that Dyan has wasted her WXSV salary on this. Also, Mme. Andre has clearly been taking teaching tips off Creepy Collins [who is probably paying off his fees at teaching college with a weekend job as the ballet school janitor]. Becuase seriously – what kind of teacher of a middle-range, suburban, primary-school-aged ballet class lets one of her students do that? I know ballet can be cutthroat, but that is seriously awful for a 12-year-old’s self-esteem. Just because Amy is a dork and can’t maneuver her size-six derriere into a plie she has to play the doll. Mind you, it’s kind of fitting because in 4 years she will have the personality of one.

Back in a certain Spanish-tiled kitchen on Calico Drive the teacher’s pet is struggling with her fouettes, jetes and glises, and Mme Andres is actually starting to notice. Lizzie tries to pysch herself up:

I will practice at home, she promised herself as she took the dress from Mme Andre. I will be the best Swanilda ever.

Anna Pavlova may have something to say about that, because she, you know, trained 60 hours a week with the Imperial Russian Ballet for that title. Mind you, she wasn’t a Wakefield and didn’t live in Sweet Valley

But then: Elizabeth stops being self-centred for 20 seconds and has her moment of realization:

That night, Elizabeth tossed and turned, unable to fall asleep. Pictures flooded her mind of all the times Madame Andre had singled her out for praise, complimenting her and using her as an example for the rest of the class. And yet, she thought with amazement, Jessica had been the best dancer all along. Why hadn’t Madame Andre noticed her?

Elizabeth comes up with a plan to pull off a massive TWIN-SWITCH and give Jessica the lead. I can’t decide whether I’m sick of her bending to her sister’s whims or whether that’s  actually kind of big for a 12-year-old. [I would probably have continued to kiss the teachers ass and let my sister suck it up and dance in the corps de ballet. How Jessica of me.]

The plan is fairly simple: Liz will jump out of Nalice’s van and pretend to twist her ankle. Then Jessica will have to dance the part of Swanilda, and Elizabeth will be the doll, forcing Amy to dance in the chorus.

The big day has arrived! Jessica sulks all morning and threatens to stay home, but Steven acts like a normal 14 year old for once and says: “Talk about being jealous – you’re just staying home because you can’t stand to hear Elizabeth getting all the applause”. Go Steven! He is so much cooler in these books.

Somehow they drag her kicking and screaming to the studio, Elizabeth pulls off her stunt, and Jessica is brilliant on stage. And then, this gem:

Mme Andre: “My star pupil and she’s never been better. I assure you that Elizabeth is the best Swanilda we’ve ever had.”

“I think you made a mistake, Madame Andre,” Mrs Wakefield said quietly. “That was not Elizabeth.”

Madame Andre’s eyes grew wide. “What! Not Elizabeth? What on earth do you mean?”

Fricken’ idiot, gosh!

Liz: “You were right, Jessica. You did deserve to dance the solo. I knew that when you helped me at home. That was why I decided to trick you into changing places with me.”

Jess: “Oh Lizzie, thank you for what you did [now I’ve got exactly what I wanted], you are the most wonderful sister in the world!”

Mme Andre:  “Now, come along everyone. Let’s go to my studio for a party. We have much to celebrate. A beautiful recital, wonderful friendships, and a brand new star!”


6 Responses to “Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield: Better than Margot Fonteyn [but not as good as Margo Black…]”

  1. ihatewheat August 28, 2010 at 4:04 pm #

    oh em gee. I remember Jessica’s sassy ballet outfit. And here is another example of how when people are hard on Jessica, it’s because she is actually the best and they do it for her own good.

    Do they ever take ballet in any other books?

  2. Miss Moppet August 29, 2010 at 8:45 am #

    Wish I’d kept this one. I remember the purple outfit too.

    That description of Amy’s plie sounds vaguely obscene.

  3. winstonegbert August 29, 2010 at 11:08 am #

    Hmm.. I know that in Miss Teen SV, when Jessica takes dance classes off Mr Kresenski, there is reference to Madame Andre and Jessica’s ballet-dancing past…but not too sure if it’s mentioned again in SVT.
    Cheers for the add

  4. Totally Sweet Valley September 2, 2010 at 4:34 pm #

    Lol, great recap – I remember borrowing this one about 15 years ago and my memory of it was very vague.

    WHY did they use ‘337’ instead of the traditional ‘137’ that Jess always says? Weird…


  1. In the word “TEAM” there is no “I” [but apparently there are two Wakefields]… « WHAT WINSTON SAW - March 7, 2011

    […] routine at the California Games. So she’s pretty much the best in the state. However, back in SVT#2, Amy is so bad at classical ballet that she scores the role of Coppelia the doll. I’m sorry, but […]

  2. In the word “TEAM” there is no “I” [but apparently there are two Wakefields]… | WHAT WINSTON SAW - February 20, 2019

    […] routine at the California Games. So she’s pretty much the best in the state. However, back in SVT#2, Amy is so bad at classical ballet that she scores the role of Coppelia the doll. I’m sorry, but […]

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