Sweet Valley Twins #23: Claim to Fame

The Moral of the Story: Footballs from the 60s bring families together.

The Big Deal: Time capsule contest

Classmate with a Problem: George Henkel, estranged from father


Sweet Valley Middle School opened twenty-five years ago. To celebrate the anniversary, the school is going to bury a time capsule to be opened another twenty-five years from now. (Incidentally, that would be in 2013. That’s next year. OMG, I’m so old.) To get the kids into it, there’s going to be a contest. Four-person groups will try to find three things that best represent the 60s – because that’s when the school opened –  and whoever finds the most awesome things will get their pictures put into the time capsule. The Unicorns are determined to win because they want everlasting fame. And I guess we’re putting the things from the 60s into a time capsule in the 80s. I don’t really get it.

Liz, Amy and Julie get stuck with a kid named George Henkel. He’s quiet and morose and totally uncommunicative when Liz asks him why he doesn’t live with his father. Mr. Howard Henkel is a wheelchair-bound curmudgeon who lives near the Wakefields. Liz goes to his house sometimes and helps out around the house. Liz is looking through newspapers from the 60s and she finds out Mr. Henkel was a football player. He won some special game for the SVMS team and was given the football from the game. Liz asks George if his dad still has the ball, and George says he didn’t know anything about it because he doesn’t talk to his father.

Liz talks to her own father and finds out Mr. Henkel went off to Vietnam and came back in a wheelchair. His wife died when George was a baby, and then George went to live with his aunt and uncle. Liz thinks it’s tragic, but Ned tells her she should leave it alone. Ned clearly doesn’t know his daughter very well. The next time Liz goes to see Mr. Henkel, she asks him about the big game. He tells her all about it and even shows her the magical football. But he gets crabby when she asks if she can have it for the time capsule. He says it’s all he has.

The school is planning a 60s-style dance and Liz tells George he should go with her, Amy and Julie. At the dance, Liz notices George noticing Nora Mercandy, so she suggests he go ask her to do the twist with him. Everyone has a great time, and George is so relaxed and happy that he finally agrees to talk to his father about getting that football. George shows up at the Wakefield house the next day to tell Liz that his dad sucks and won’t let him have his super important football.

Later that day, Jessica goes to Mr. Henkel’s house to drop off some books Liz got for him. Mr. Henkel thinks she’s Liz and he gives her the football, babbling about how he should have treated his son better and not letting Jessica get a word in to say she’s not Elizabeth. Once she has her hands on the football, though, she shuts up and starts daydreaming about how her team is going to win the time capsule contest. By lunchtime on Monday, everyone at school has heard about Jessica getting the football. The Unicorns are impressed. Liz is not. Liz gets the truth out of Jessica and makes her hand over the football. When Liz tries to give it to George, he says he doesn’t want it unless his father gives it to him in person. So Liz tells Mr. Henkel and Mr. Henkel gets crabby and says the deal’s off.

Time’s up and everyone goes to the big ceremony at school. Jessica’s team has found a movie poster, a Beatles record and an old fashion magazine. Liz’s team has an autographed picture of President Kennedy and a textbook from the first year the school was open. They weren’t able to find a third item. But wait! In the middle of the ceremony, Mr. Henkel makes a dramatic entrance, wheeling himself onto the field, football in his lap. He goes straight to the stage and talks to Mr. Clark, who calls George to the stage.

Mr. Henkel makes a big speech about looking forward instead of backward and then he hands the ball to George. Big hug, Liz’s team wins, everyone is happy except the Unicorns. Jessica’s silver lining is that Liz is getting her picture put in the time capsule and people might mistake her for Jessica.

Setup for the next book: the twins think their mother is having an affair.


“The Unicorns are very happy about this,” [Janet] told Jessica. “This is a great accomplishment and we won’t forget it.”

Sometimes Janet sounds like a mob boss.

The Cover: I have always loved this cover. I think it’s because I’m obsessed with the 60s and 70s.

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  • Carly February 22, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    This was always my fav cover because I’m also obsessed with the 60s and 70s 🙂 I had to lol at your comment about Janet sounding like a mob boss…. totally agree.

    This is slightly off topic, but I was wondering if you know of any blogs or websites out there that do any Sweet Valley book swaps or trades, kinda like a “swap shop” or trade market. Does this exist anywhere? If so, I’ve been on the hunt for some books, plus I had doubles and triples that I could trade or sell. If this idea doesn’t exist I’m thinking it needs to!! Lol.


    Shannon Reply:

    That would be amazing. I actually don’t know of any, but I agree, it should exist. I’ve gotten most of mine from ebay.


  • Amiee February 22, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    I always loved this cover too! I thought Jessica looked like a hippy which was my go to costume during high school.


  • LadyJ3000 February 23, 2012 at 2:46 am

    Carly check out paperbackswap. You post you extras and trade for others. Claim to Fame was one of my favorite books back when I was little.

    Reading that recap brought back a lot of memories.


  • pbellyup February 24, 2012 at 2:49 am

    I’ve started reading your blog last week and I can’t stop laughing! I grew up reading these books and its so funny to hear that everyone else was thinking the same thing I was. Its been 20 years and I’m on this website now still thinking of the twins! Thanks for writing and I look forward to reading and commenting 🙂


    Shannon Reply:

    Thank you so much! I absolutely love doing this blog. One of the best things about it is when people comment and tell me what they thought about the books when they first read them.


  • Kathryn February 28, 2012 at 6:25 am

    Hi Shannon. Once again, a great post. I don’t get it either, why a time capsule from the 1980s needs items from the 1960s. Anyway, I’ve been inspired to do a Sweet Valley send up of my own. If you or anyone else is interested, here is the link:



  • Whallie February 28, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    I like the cover but Jess’ face (I think on the right) doesn’t look like the twins at all. She has a massive overbite and bags under her eyes. The 60’s and 70’s time capsule for the 80’s is a dumb idea because let’s say we got our flying cars and robot maids by 2000, theoretically when the millennium SVH opened the capsule, they wouldn’t know jack about the 80’s, possibly the best decade around for kids and teens. It was all about big hair, rock music, big hair, neon colors, big hair, and other crazy stuff you’d never think of. Oh, yeah, and big hair.


  • Jenn March 1, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    I might be hallucinating, but in this one, didn’t Jess try to iron her hair to straighten in and end up burning off a bunch?


    Shannon Reply:

    She did try to iron her hair, but either Liz or Alice (I can’t remember which) stopped her before she could burn her hair off.


  • Jessica March 8, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    Hi! I just wanted to say I loved your blog so much that I featured it in a post on my blog. I hope that’s ok! Thanks for the fun!


  • KannaChan July 24, 2015 at 7:25 pm

    Are you sure the girl on the right is Jessica? Because people just can’t change their hairlines.


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