A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Surviving the Applewhites, a 2004 Newbery Honor winner, features a protagonist who has been sent to attend the Applewhites' Creative Academy due to his bad behavior. Jake has been kicked out of many schools; he smokes, has reputedly set fire to a school, swears constantly (but the words he says are not mentioned), has scarlet spiked hair and various piercings, and his parents are said to be in jail for growning marijuana. However, he doesn't show much of this behavior once he starts attending the Applewhites' school, and his attempts to smoke are thwarted. As E.D. tells him, "Wit’s End is a smoke-free environment."
What's the story?
Twelve-year-old E.D Applewhite wasn't too happy when her father decided she and her siblings should be homeschooled at their own Creative Academy in rural North Carolina. She's even less happy when Jake, a troubled youth who's been kicked out of too many schools to count, shows up to join them. In alternating narratives, E.D. tells of her struggles to fit in with her own family while Jake tries to figure out how best to annoy the Applewhites. Despite their initial resistance, however, E.D. and Jake get drawn into the riotous family drama -- both emotional and literal -- as E.D.'s volatile father enlists everyone's help in his production of The Sound of Music.
Is it any good?
From the terminally optimistic poetess Aunt Lucille to E.D's brother Hal, Surviving the Applewhites is chock-full of delightful eccentric characters.
The banner in the Applewhites' schoolroom reads, "Education is an adventurous quest for the meaning of life, involving an ability to think things through." The rest of the Applewhites embrace this motto wholeheartedly as they pursue their many creative interests, but E.D. and new student Jake have their own reasons to be skeptical. E.D. and Jake serve as two more grounded lenses through which to view the creative commotion of the family, but the real fun occurs as they each gradually lose their objectivity and get sucked into the whirlwind on their own terms.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how everyone in this book has a passion, even E.D., although hers is not typical of the rest of the Applewhites'. What's your passion? Is it creative or something else?
The Applewhites' school life is unusual in that the children get to choose what they want to study. Do you think you would enjoy this, or would you miss the lack of structure, as E.D. does?
If you got to choose your own subjects to study in school, what would you choose?
- Author: Stephanie S. Tolan
- Genre: Family Life
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs, Music and Sing-Along
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication date: January 1, 2002
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 14
- Number of pages: 216
- Award: Newbery Medal and Honors
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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