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Surviving the Applewhites (Newbery Honor Book) Hardcover – August 6, 2002


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 820L (What's this?)
  • Series: Newbery Honor Book
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; First Edition edition (August 6, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0066236029
  • ISBN-13: 978-0066236025
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (164 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,548,224 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When Jake Semple is kicked out of yet another school, the Applewhites, an eccentric family of artists, offer to let him live with them and attend their unstructured Creative Academy. Twelve-year-old E.D., the only non-artistic (and organized) person in her family, feels like "the invisible Applewhite" and is wary of Jake. Through Jake and E.D's alternating perspectives, Tolan (The Face in the Mirror) introduces the outrageous titular clan. E.D.'s pompous father directs a local production of The Sound of Music, while her mother breaks from her popular mysteries to write the Great American Novel; her uncle carves a coffee table that her poet aunt defends to Jake, "Well, you couldn't put a cup of coffee on it, of course, but then who would want to? It's wonderfully soul-filling, don't you think?" Some of the plotting feels unfinished: E.D. and Jake don't formally make peace and the Applewhites never come to terms with their individual narcissism. Jake's transformation too seems unconvincing. But humor abounds in the ever-building chaos: a writer coming to interview E.D.'s mother stays to do a slew of projects on the famous family, including inviting a television crew to document their lives. In the end, it's the antics of the cast of characters that keep this show on the road. Ages 10-up. (Aug.)
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grade 5-8-In this laugh-out-loud novel, a young teen on the fast track to the juvenile detention center suddenly finds himself living in rural North Carolina with the outrageously eccentric Applewhite clan. Jake Semple, 13, has been expelled from a long line of schools before coming to the Applewhites to be homeschooled. This extended family forms what a visiting reporter christens an "artistic dynasty," with various creative endeavors absorbing the adults' time and attention. Jake is left largely to his own devices, since the family doesn't believe in telling their charges what or when to study. He develops a loyal following consisting of an active four-year-old and an overweight basset hound, and his transformation is complete once he becomes enmeshed in the family's production of The Sound of Music. Quirky characters, from the cub reporter to the visiting guru, add to the offbeat humor. The Applewhites' over-the-top personalities mark them as literary kin of Helen Cresswell's Bagthorpes. Running beneath the narrative that gently pokes fun at everything from sculpture to TV documentaries, though, is also the story of a boy allowing himself to belong and begin to discover his own potential. This has terrific booktalk and read-aloud potential, and will help fill the need for humorous contemporary fiction.
Faith Brautigam, Gail Borden Public Library, Elgin, IL
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Even reluctant readers will find this book enjoyable!
Evelyn Horan
Yet, the personalities of characters and conflicts within the plot make the Applewhites seem real.
Amy Kreitz
I like how Tolan let you know what was going to happen but not how it would happen.
kid review

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Laura Lynn Walsh on November 6, 2002
Format: Library Binding
This is a good hearted book that follows the transformation of Jake, incipient hoodlum, to Jake, possible actor/singer in a believable gradual series of extenuating circumstances. The humor rests on the interesting and very individualistic ways the various residents of the Creative Academy go about their daily lives, making Jake, with his spiked hair and many earrings seem almost normal.
A sub-plot also follows E.D., one of the daughters of the family in her quest to organize her life and NOT be as hair-brained as the rest of her family. She, too, discovers that her talents are valued, even if they are not in the artistic domain.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By John Smith on June 19, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is one of my favorite books I've read in a while! This book really made me think about myself and the others around me! It gives you a new way of thinking of life. In the story Jake Semple, a child who wasn't the best child and got into a lot of trouble. Jake finds a new way of looking at life when he goes to school at the Applewhites home. He realizes that his appearance doesn't matter to them and they look at him just as any other student. He realizes that he doesn't need his "bad boy" appearance anymore. He realizes that Theatre was what he enjoyed to do and wanted to do it his whole entire lifetime! He really turns himself around and becomes his true self! this is one of my favorite books of all time! I reccomend it to EVERYONE!
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on August 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover
There's a whole genre of children's literature that can be best categorized as Crazy/Artistic Family books. Since the publication of Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth's, "Cheaper By the Dozen" (and possibly before that book as well) kids have enjoyed reading about large crazy families and their occasional sad sane members. "Surviving the Applewhites" bounds gleefully into the ring to grab a little of this genre-glory and it's done pretty well for itself. It garnered a 2003 Newbery Honor. It's on countless Summer Reading lists around the country each year. You'd never know that it was a knock-off, would you? The fact of the matter is, "Surviving the Applewhites" is just a slightly contemporized version of Helen Cresswell's 1977 classic children's book, "Ordinary Jack". Though it certainly has some nice ideas and nice moments, "Applewhites" is doomed to be remembered as the Newbery Honor winner that copied a better book, from its dog to its fire-loving preschooler.

Jake Semple is a mean kid. A mean spiked hair kid. A mean spiked hair, multiple earrings, swear at authority figures, wear black clothing kid. He's been kicked out of every school he's ever gone to until finally he's ended up on the Applewhites' farm. The Applewhites are neighbors of Jake's grandfather (the last person the boy was dumped into the care of) and they're a bit... well.... a bit peculiar. All the adults have amazing artistic talents, while the kids are developing their own particular styles in a kind of free-form classroom. In the midst of this chaos is E.D. Applewhite, Jake's peer and an overly organized kid. She doesn't trust Jake for one little moment, but the fact of the matter is that there are larger issues hanging over her head. E.D. can't stand the loosey-goosey nature of the family.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Kayla on February 12, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Do you think you can change a 13 year old teenager whose parents are in jail for selling and growing marijuana in their own home? Change him into a hard working student instead of the kid who just burnt down his old school?

Stephanie S. Tolan's book Surviving the Applewhites is a great book that shows that even the worst people have some good in them. Jake Semple is a scary kid. Word has it that he burned down his old school and then was kicked out of every school in his home state. Only a few weeks into September, the middle school in Traybridge, North Carolina, has thrown him out too. Now there's only one place left that will take him: a home school run by the weirdest, most outrageous, quarrelsome family you'll ever meet. Each and every Applewhite is an artist except E.D. the smart, scruffy girl E.D. and Jake, so close in age, are quickly paired in the family's first experiment in "cooperative education." The two clash immediately, of course. The only thing they have in common is the determination to survive the family's expectations. But when the Applewhite Father directs the Sound of Music it brings the family together and shows E.D. and Jake the value of the special gifts they've had all along.

I thought this book was awesome, but I don't think Tolan explained the characters well enough. There were too many people in the story and I couldn't keep them straight. I think Tolan did a great job describing the setting of the story I could imagine what it was like there with Jake and the craziness of living with 4 kids and 3 adults who are all obsessed with being artistic and showing their natural talents. When the family gets crazy about the play (The Sound of Music) you can fell their enthusiasm and excitement. I really like the novel.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on January 3, 2005
Format: Paperback
In the book Surviving the Applewhites the book starts off with Jake Semple. He is shipped off to the Creative Academy and there he has to be schooled there and while he is there he also learned a valuable lesson. While he is there E.D Applewhite resents him and like always thinks that she does not belong with all of her family who lives on their estate at the Creative Academy. While Jake is staying there he also feels that he does not belong there and toward the end of the book he realizes that he does have talent in acting and singing when he plays the oldest child's lover boy in the Applewhites production of The Sound of Music. Jake was a very luck boy to go the Creative academy, because it saved him from moving to Juvenile Hall for boys. When Jake entered the academy he was a rebellious teenager with red spiked hair, piercing and a bad smoking habit. But, when he left no more red spikes hair, no more piercing and smoking was out too.

Jake Semple was a diamond in the rough in the begging of the book. As I said before he had red spike hair with beautiful blonde hair underneath the dye, piercing all up his ear and the only thing he wore thought the whole year was black tee shirts and black baggy pants. Smoking and having a bad attitude were two of the many things that is wrong with Jake and which he needs to fix. His personality is very mean and care free since he does not care about what he says and how he acts toward people. At the end of the book Jake makes a very big transformation and you will have to read this fabulous book to see what I mean. Jake has many bad traits in the begging, but turns them all around so I guess me and him do have some similar traits like being kind to others, sometimes, and also during the end being very responsible for people and things.
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