Another gem from the Newbery Honor books, Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie Tolan is an entertaining, funny novel about a delinquent boy who, having been kicked out of school, is forced to be homeschooled by the Applewhite family, themselves an eclectic bunch of misfits. In fact, there are so many characters that in the beginning it’s hard to keep them all straight!
Destiny, the youngest Applewhite, is 4 years old and ends up idolizing Jake Semple, the delinquent boy, along with the basset hound, Winston. Both are attached to Jake’s hip despite his disapproval. E.D, the closest to Jake’s age and the one put in charge of helping him in his education, is the only normal Applewhite. Studious and industrious, she loves learning and doing the right thing. Her mother is a successful writer. Her father a successful director. Her brother, Hal, is a recluse and never leaves his room except in the middle of the night to eat. Her sister, Cordelia, is a composer and choreographer. Her grandpa and uncle make furniture. Her aunt is a poet.
When her father’s current production of the Sound of Music loses its stage, the Applewhites come together and use their talents to save the play by hosting the play in their barn. E.D. becomes the stage manager. Her grandpa and uncle make the stage. Her brother Hal leaves his room to paint. Destiny and Jake both are cast in the play and Jake begins to realize he has talent as well. Her mother and aunt make the costumes.
Throw in a zany wanna-be-film-director and an Indian chef (“passion is necessary to all of life”) along with colorful characters from the small North Carolina town and you have a delightful tale sure to delight and entertain. The character arc of both E.D. and Jake are great with both learning life lessons, discovering what life is about and what gives them job, and learning how all things are possible. Highly recommended. Great for kids of all ages (there’s no love interest or any talk of attraction). Awesome book showing a family coming together in times of crisis. Purely a joy to read!