Surviving the Applewhites

College Bound Reading List

Surviving the Applewhites, by Stephanie Tolan

If you’re looking for some light, fun, summer reading…”Surviving the Applewhites” is for you. In this 2003 Newbery Honor book, a juvenile delinquent named Jake Semple (with red spiked hair, piercings, and a bad smoking habit) is sent to stay with the Applewhites, a homeschool family living at Wit’s End in rural North Carolina. The Applewhites call their school-at-home the Creative Academy. A banner on the wall states: “education is an adventurous quest for the meaning of life, involving an ability to think things through” (p. 27). Their learning style is more like unschooling, though, and the family is rather eccentric. The mother is an author in the middle of writing a book. The father is a play director and scriptwriter. The grandfather is a craftsman. Hal, the older brother (15), stays in his room all day sculpting and painting. Cordellia writes and choreographs her own dances. Destiny, the youngest at age 5, is talkative and messy, with paint in his hair. E.D. likes to study and collect butterflies, and she’s so organized that she already has her curriculum planned out for the entire year. However, E.D. is the only Applewhite who isn’t artistic so she feels kind of left out. Nevertheless, E.D. eventually realizes that everyone in the family – including herself – is special in their own way. The characters may seem self-centered, but they all pull together as a family to put on a play, “The Sound of Music.” In the end, Jake also undergoes a major transformation and discovers his real talent. Children and adults of all ages will enjoy reading about this creative family and their crazy life, and homeschoolers especially will enjoy reading about other kids their age who share their schooling situation. The 216-page novel even includes discussion questions and activities, so it’s perfect for a summer book club!

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