Applewhites at Wit's End

Book review by
Sally Engelfried, Common Sense Media
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Funny mayhem at creative family's unusual summer camp.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Like the children at the Applewhites' Eureka! summer camp, readers may learn that it takes a cooperative effort to run a camp or put on a show, but The Applewhites at Wit's End is meant mostly meant to entertain.

Positive Messages

When the creative but generally disorganized Applewhites decide to start a summer camp to get out of financial trouble, it seems like a doomed idea given most of the family’s distaste for structure and rules. But all of them, including the campers, learn that in order to be a success they must pull together as a team, using everyone's talents and abilities. Individually, E.D. learns that gorgeous looks and talent are not necessarily the right reasons to have a crush on a boy.

Positive Role Models & Representations

E.D. Applewhite is a hard worker who  takes her role as organizer to heart, creating maps and schedules to keep everyone on track. But when it turns out that the campers have their own ideas about what they want to do, E.D. learns to roll with the punches and accept that you can't always plan everything out. Jake, his mohawk haircut notwithstanding, has lost almost all traces of his former role as the rebellious delinquent of Surviving the Applewhites and become a responsible young man determined to help make the camp work so he can stay at the school that he has grown to love.


When E.D. and Jake come up with a plan to thwart the health inspector, it involves setting the family's aggressive goat on him to chase him into the woods so he'll get tripped up and caught in some brambles, but the result is more slapstick than violent.


As in the first book, Surviving the Applewhites, Paulie the parrot is mentioned as swearing up a storm, but his actual language isn't repeated.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Applewhites at Wit's End is the sequel to the Newbery Honor book Surviving the Applewhites. This lighthearted tale of an artistic summer camp features children occasionally revolting against the adults in charge, but it's usually to everyone's benefit, especially when levelheaded kids E.D. Applewhite and former delinquent Jake take the lead.

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What's the story?

Shortly after the events of Surviving the Applewhites, the Applewhites’ fortune has been embezzled and their creative lifestyle at their home school Wit's End is in danger of ending. When E.D.'s father announces they will generate income by starting a summer camp for creative children, the rest of the family lacks enthusiasm, to say the least. Despite themselves, each becomes interested in leading a workshop of their individual talents of acting, poetry, art, and music. Once the children arrive, however, the carefully planned workshops don’t go according to plan, and matters are complicated by the anonymous messages being left in the Applewhites' mailbox, threatening to shut them down. It's up to the levelheaded E.D. and former delinquent Jake to take the lead on figuring out what to do.

Is it any good?

From the chaotic start of camp to the campers' revolting at having to pursue artistic endeavors they're not interested in, the Wit's End summer camp almost seems doomed to failure at first. The fun lies in the way the family figures out how to make it work despite the many complications along the way. The cast of characters is so large it requires a descriptive list at the beginning of THE APPLEWHITES AT WIT'S END, and keeping track of all their doings makes for a less complex exploration of the two main characters, E.D. and Jake. They both pick up where they left off in Surviving the Applewhites, but their personal changes aren't as deep as in the first book. Still, readers will find it easy to get caught up in the campers' many madcap adventures and enjoy the frequent laugh-out-loud moments.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the Applewhites' summer camp grew from all the things the family loves -- performing, poetry, painting, and so on. If you were going to start a summer camp, what sorts of activities would you include?

  • The first campers to arrive are dismayed that there's no cell phone service. How would you handle the prospect of a summer without a cell phone?

  • Some of the campers came thinking they were going to explore one art form and ended up really liking to do something else -- have you ever been surprised at the direction your own interests took you?

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