Sunday, April 17, 2011

Surviving the Applewhites

Tolan, S.S. (2002). Surviving the Applewhites. New York, NY: Scholastic, Inc.

Plot Summary:
After being thrown out of every school in Rhode Island and his parents landing in jail, Jake Semple is sent to live with his grandfather in North Carolina. But, even with a new start, Jake hasn’t changed at all and gets kicked out of school again. An interesting possibility presents itself though, and Jake is invited to attend the Creative Academy, a school run by the Applewhite family for their children. Zedediah Applewhite, a woodworker, has two sons, Randolph, a theatre director, and Archie, also a woodworker. Archie is married to Lucille, a poet, and Randolph is marred to Sybil, a popular author. Randolph and Sybil have four children: Hal, a sculptor, Cordelia, a dancer who is composing and staring in her own ballet, and Destiny and E.D. E.D. is Jake’s age and is the only Applewhite not okay with Jake attending their school. She is also the only one who actually develops and follows a set curriculum for herself, therefore the family thinks it best to initially pair Jake with her for his education. Out of work, Randolph takes on a job as director of the upcoming production of Sound of Music at the local small theatre in town. His behavior manages to alienate his entire crew, leading to them leave the production. Randolph urges the other Applewhite's to take up the jobs of the crew and pitch in to help, but the manager of the theatre has had enough of Randolph, his rainbow production, and his crazy antics, and decides to cancel the performance. The Applewhite's kick into high gear and show that they, as well as the journalist and Lucille's guru who have also taken up residence at the Applewhite compound, can all work together to put on this production.
This book is hilarious. It has so much going on, I was not bored for a minute. It has a nice happy ending with Jake and E.D. having a sense of pride and belonging in their roles in the musical. It’s also neat to see this self-absorbed bickering family come together in the name of art to produce something truly unique. There is a good balance of obvious humor, with the dog and Destiny harassing Jake, and good moral to the story of Jake losing his rebellious ways after discovering something he’s good at that give him joy. This book will definitely appeal to both boys and girls.


Reading Level:
Ages 9 - 12

homeschooling, creative arts, family

Award Information:
Newbery Honor Book 2003
Character Names/Descriptions:
Edith Applewhite (E.D.): daughter of Randolph and Sybil; the only Applewhite not particularly artistic; very detail oriented and organized; develops her own curriculum for her home schooling
Jake Semple: taken in by the Applewhite's; kicked out of every school in Rhode Island; parents are in jail
Destiny Applewhite: four year-old brother of E.D.; likes to follow around after Jake; asks a lot of questions
Cordelia Applewhite: E.D.'s older sister; starring in and composing a one-woman ballet
Hal Applewhite: E.D.'s reclusive older brother; changes his artistic focus periodically; currently a sculpter
Zedediah Applewhite: father of Archie and Randolph; grandfather to E.D., Hal, Cordelia, and Destiny
Randolph Applewhite: son of Zedediah; married to Sybil; father of E.D., Hal, Cordelia, and Destiny; theater director
Sybil Jameson (Debbie Applewhite): wife of Randolph; mother of E.D., Hal, Cordelia, and Destiny; famous author
Archie Applewhite: son of Zedediah; married to Lucille; woodworker; tattooed
Lucille Applewhite: married to Archie; poet; the one who invited Jake to join the Creative Academy
Jeremy Bernstein: journalist who moves in with the Applewhite's to document their artistic endeavors

A troubled tween finds joy in an unlikely place as he attends an artistic family's creative academy.


  1. I've read this book and the example you gave was very accurate. Nice job.