Do you enjoy a good story with compelling and memorable heroes and heroines? This monthly column features homeschooled characters in literature and film. Wish you had your own copy of the book or movie? Just click on the product image or text links to go to the author’s site or Amazon to buy it!
The Applewhites at Wit’s End (2012) is the hilarious sequel to the Newbery Honor book Surviving the Applewhites (2002). This book focuses more on the eccentric Applewhite family rather than on Jake, the boy who ends up being fostered by them. Shortly after the events of Surviving the Applewhites, the family’s fortune has been embezzled and their creative homeschool lifestyle at Wit’s End is in danger of ending.
The first line of this book starts out with… “It was a dark and stormy night…” Seriously! And over-dramatic theater-director Mr. Applewhite declares it’s the end of the world. But then after a harsh winter of rationing supplies, he has an idea! They will generate income by turning the sixteen acres of their family compound in rural North Carolina into “Eureka,” a summer camp for creative children. (The property was a former motor lodge, so it’s actually ideal for that purpose.)
The rest of the family isn’t too enthusiastic at first, but catch on once they realize that each person in the family can have a workshop based on their individual talents of acting, poetry, art, and music. (Besides, it’s either that, or moving to a hovel in Hoboken.) E.D., the one non-artistic Applewhite, will help to coordinate schedules.
The Applewhites manage to get a half dozen precocious kids to come to their creative summer camp, but unfortunately those kids turn out to be spoiled, demanding, and occasionally revolting against the adults in charge. The campers are not too happy from the get-go because the property has no cell phone service, no air conditioning, and no swimming pool – just old-fashioned hand-written letters, fans, and a muddy pond.
With the rest of the family at their wit’s end, it’s up to levelheaded E.D. and former delinquent Jake to take the lead. But then a state inspector threatens to shut down the camp for code violations. Eventually, the adults pull together to save the farm, after the children avert the most pressing danger.
If you read the original Applewhite book and enjoyed it, this one will not disappoint you. (Definitely read the other story first to know what’s going on.) Readers who like homeschooling, artistic characters, Southern fiction, and lighthearted tales of an unconventional family and their crazy escapades will love these books. Surviving the Applewhites and The Applewhites at Wit’s End are perfect for summer reading.
The Applewhites at Wit’s End comes with some extra features including an Applewhite Family Tree, Cast of Characters, Behind the Scenes, and Advice to Young Authors. Learn more about Stephanie Tolan and her family’s similarities to the Applewhites in this great YouTube video: Applewhites At Wit’s End! Tolan herself lives on a little lake in a big woods in Charlotte, North Carolina. She works with highly gifted kids ages 10-14 at the Yunasa summer camp for gifted youth.