The Book Reviews – Website

January 17, 2009

Surviving the Applewhites

Surviving the Applewhites

Author: Stephanie S. Tolan

Page Length: 216

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Jake Semple is a juvenile delinquent whose parents are in jail for growing marijuana.  Jake, known as the “bad kid”, has been kicked out of many schools and is living with his grandfather in North Carolina.  As a last resort, Jake is accepted by the Applewhite’s to attend Creative Academy on their farm, Wit’s End.  Creative Academy is the Applewhite’s home school where all the members of their family have their own projects and contracts for their education.  All of the Applewhite’s are either creative, artistic, or musical except for E. D., a twelve-year-old girl who is more sensible and thinks more logically.

When Jake comes to the farm, Winston, the dog, immediately bonds with him.  Jake tries to offend the Applewhite’s but they either ignore or accept his unruly behavior.  When Randolph (the dad) agrees to direct the town musical, all of the family jump on board to help him.  Jake lands a leading role and E. D. discovers she is an indispensable stage manager. 

REVIEW: This is an excellent book that all ages and genders would enjoy.  It has humor but also a message of acceptance and success for those who are a little different, eccentric, or somewhere outside the norm. For students who are sometimes known as the “bad kid”, the book gives an example of how “bad” can turn into “glad”. 

I think this would be a fun book to read as a class novel.  The story is told in alternating chapters from Jake and E. D.’s point of view.  Both characters learn that they are not so different and each can contribute to society in their own personal ways.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Point of View and Characters

RELATED BOOKS: The Face in the Mirror, Flight of the Raven, Ordinary Miracles, Welcome to the Ark

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: The Sound of Music (1965)


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

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