The Second Form at St. Clare's
|Illustrator||W. Lindsay Cable|
|Preceded by||Summer Term at St. Clare's|
|Followed by||Claudine at St.Clare's|
The Second Form at St. Clares is the fourth novel in the St. Clare's series of children's school stories by Enid Blyton. The series is about the boarding school adventures of twin girls Patricia and Isabel O'Sullivan.Their form mistress is now Miss Jenks and they no longer have to bear the severeness of the first form mistress, Miss Roberts – who is extremely sarcastic and firm but can be kind when she feels like to, a bit like Mam'zelle, the French teacher that used to teach and is still teaching the girls.
The second form includes two girls who have been kept back from third form and two new girls. The two old girls are Elsie Fenshawe and Anna Johnson. Both are disliked as Elsie is spiteful and Anna is very lazy; however, both are made head of their form, replacing Hilary Wentworth who was head in first form. Miss Theobald decides to give them both the chance as she feels that Elsie's sharp nature may stir Anna up a bit, while Anna, despite her laziness, is good-humoured and well-meaning, and Miss Theobald hopes that she may be good for Elsie in this way. The second form mistress, Miss Jenks, has doubts about this as Elsie and Anna do not like each other very much, but agrees to let both of them try.
The two new girls are Gladys Hilman and Mirabel Unwin. Gladys Hilman is miserable because her mother is ill in hospital. Gladys Hilman rarely speaks or joins in and this is the reason Gladys Hilman nicknamed "The Misery Girl". It takes Mirabel Unwin to find out what is wrong with her. Mirabel Unwin is determined to make the worst of things and ruin class for everyone. She was sent away from home because of her behaviour towards her younger brother and sister. Mirabel's attitude leads her into trouble when Carlotta slaps her in public for ruining a play rehearsal, but Mirabel learns her lesson and forgives Carlotta. Later she admits to Isabel that she is ashamed of her behaviour and wants to be friends with the girls instead. When Elsie attempts to convince the form to perform a series of punishments against Mirabel in retaliation for her attitude in class, Isabel sticks up for her and manages to convince the class that Elsie is not acting in their interest but is just acting out of spite. As a result of this, Mirabel and Isabel become friends. Mirabel initially declares she wants to leave at half term, but ends up staying when Pat and Isabel stand up for her and the girls decide to give her a chance.
Although at first they do not get on well, an unlikely friendship later develops between Gladys and Mirabel, as they help each other cope with their first time in boarding school. Mirabel turns out to be a talented musician and Gladys a gifted actor, and the class manage to use these talents to ease the two girls into the way of things at the school.
The term passes by eventfully, and Anna becomes a surprisingly popular head girl, throwing aside her laziness. When Elsie is stripped of her position, Anna takes to her new position of sole head girl with a new-found enthusiasm and discovers she actually enjoys the sense of responsibility she feels at helping others and setting a good example. When Mrs Theobald refuses to let Mirabel send a telegram home asking for her violin, mistakenly thinking that Mirabel has only stopped misbehaving because she has got tired of it, she confides in Anna, who goes to see the Headmistress and explains to her that Mirabel is in fact ashamed of herself and wants to do better. As a result of Anna's directness, Mirabel is allowed to send the telegram and Anna is admired and respected by all of the other girls for performing such a kindly act.
A concert given by the girls proves a huge success, but Elsie is forbidden to take part as a result of her behaviour towards Anna when the decision was made to strip Elsie of her position as joint head girl. Anna and Carlotta both offer Elsie an olive branch, but Elsie has still not learned her lesson after being left out and sets out to ruin a birthday party given by Carlotta as revenge. However Hilary discovers Elsie's plan, and instead of holding the party the evening of Carlotta's birthday as planned, the girls hold a midnight feast the night before instead. Elsie gets into trouble as a result when her plan to expose the private party backfires. There is also a new drama mistress this year, Miss Quentin. Alison chooses to worship her (she always finds someone each year). However, at the end of the term, Alison is badly let down by Miss Quentin when she finds out that the mistress laughs at her behind her back and chose Gladys over her for the principal role in the play. She is then very cold to Miss Quentin and snubs her.
At term's end, Anna is told she can now go up to the Third Form, who have heard about her success as head girl and want her to return to their year. Elsie is also granted passage into the Third Form after she apologises to Anna and Carlotta for trying to ruin the birthday party, but is told that she is on her last chance and that she must drop her malicious and spiteful attitude if she wants to stay there, and that one mistake will see her expelled from the school.
- Later reprints of the book change from Carlotta slapping Mirabel for ruining a Drama class to her stepping on her toe.
- Gladys mentions that during the summer she has to stay at school due to her mother being ill and having no other family, she will be the only one there apart from two other girls whose parents are in India. It is later discovered that Hilary Wentworth was probably one of these girls as she doesn't come back for the sixth form as she is going to join her parents there.