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Surviving the Applewhites


Surviving the Applewhites Cover

ISBN13: 9780064410441
ISBN10: 0064410447
Condition: Standard
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Publisher Comments:

Will anyone take on Jake Semple?

Jake Semple is notorious. Rumor has it he burned down his old school and got kicked out of every school in his home state.

Only one place will take him now, and that's a home school run by the Applewhites, a chaotic and hilarious family of artists. The only one who doesn't fit the Applewhite mold is E.D.—a smart, sensible girl who immediately clashes with the unruly Jake.

Jake thinks surviving this one will be a breeze . . . but is he really as tough or as bad as he seems?

About the Author

Stephanie S. Tolan's earliest memories involve books — those that were read to her and those she read to herself, often late at night with a flashlight under the covers. She always thought there was a special magic in the little black marks on paper that could turn into whole worlds and real people. Born in Ohio and raised in Wisconsin, she wrote her first story in the fourth grade. It was thrilling to discover she could make the magic herself, and she decided then and there to be a writer.

Other ambitions came and went, but writing stayed on, and she majored in creative writing at Purdue University, then went on to a Master's Degree in English. Marriage and the sudden addition to her life of three young stepsons, and then a son, forced writing into the nooks and crannies, but she wrote poetry and plays for adults as she taught college English. Her husband's career in professional theatre moved the Tolan family around the country, and writing was a comforting constant. In the mid-seventies, Stephanie began working in the Poets-in-the-Schools program in Pennsylvania. Her first group of students were fourth and fifth graders, and she found among them a new generation of intense readers, still using the flashlight-under-the-covers trick.

"They brought back to me that special reading joy that most adults — even the readers among us — have lost, and I wanted to try my hand at writing for those kids, so like myself at their age and yet so different."

The difference, she felt, was less in the children themselves than in the fast-changing world they lived in. Her writing for children and young adults, beginning with Grandpa — And Me in 1978, has reflected that contemporary world. Tolan's suspense novel A Good Courage looks at the dark side of life in a fictional cult/commune. Plague Year is a harrowing story of hatred, fear and harassment in a small town high school, and the violence eventually spreads into the community. With Who's There? and The Face in the Mirror, Tolan ventures into the spine-tingling realm of the contemporary ghost story. Save Halloween! tells of conflicts faced by Johnna Filkins, daughter of an evangelical Christian minister, when her understanding of democracy collides with her family's wish to impose their beliefs on their hometown. And Ordinary Miracles revisits the Filkins family, this time following Mark, one of the twin future preachers, who meets a Nobel laureate and must find a way to reconcile his faith with the world of contemporary science.

Stephanie Tolan is also well known as an advocate for extremely bright children. She co-authored the award-winning nonfiction book, Guiding the Gifted Child, and has written many articles about the challenges gifted "asynchronous" children and adults face as they find a way to fit into their world. She lectures throughout the country to audiences of parents, educators and counselors attempting to find ways to meet the children's needs. Her experiences with these "amazing, off-the-charts" young people inspired the themes of Welcome to the Ark, a powerful novel about four brilliant young misfits in a world teetering on destruction. The first volume of a projected trilogy, Ark is followed by Flight of the Raven, due out in the fall of 2001.

Mrs. Tolan currently lives on a little lake in a big woods in Charlotte, NC with her husband, one dog, one cat, two fish and plenty of outdoor creatures.

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Home School Book Review, January 2, 2013 (view all comments by Home School Book Review)
Jake Semple is a twelve-or-thirteen-year-old budding juvenile delinquent with all black “goth” clothes, a silver ring through one eyebrow, numerous earrings, and scarlet spiked hair; also he smokes cigarettes and swears a lot. He has been kicked out of the public schools in the whole state of Rhode Island and is rumored to have burnt one of them down. His parents are in jail for growing marijuana in their basement, so he has been sent to live with his grandfather Henry Dugan in rural Traybridge, NC. But after a reign of terror at Traybridge Middle School he is expelled and sent to the “Creative Academy” which is what the Applewhite family calls their homeschool program at Wit’s End, the sixteen-acre farm on which they live. Randolph Applewhite is a temperamental play director and his often oblivious wife Sibyl Jameson is the author of a mystery series about Petunia Grantham but is trying to write the Great American Novel. Their four children are Cordelia who wants to dance, the elusive Hal who doesn’t really know what he wants, E. D. who is Jake’s age and just wants to be normal, and four-year-old Destiny who talks all the time. Rounding out the clan is Grandpa Zedediah and Uncle Archie who make artistic but useless furniture and Aunt Lucille who is a poet. The children are homeschooled using a radical unschooling method.

Randolph is asked to direct The Sound of Music for the Traybridge Little Theater. The whole family joins in to help, and, after hearing Jake sing, Randolph casts him as Rolf, Liesl’s boyfriend who joins the S.S.. Finally Jake has something to be proud of and look forward to. However, in a casting dispute, the chairwoman of the Traybridge Little Theater cancels the show. What will happen to the production? Is there some way to save it? And what will happen to Jake? I first heard about this book in 2003 from Ann Lahrson Fisher who was doing “News and Commentary” for Home Education Magazine and wrote, “Have you ever wondered about the dearth of homeschooled kids on the pages of fiction? Where is the giggle-fest of predicaments that star homeschooled kids, stories written to delight homeschooled readers? Wonder no more��"the Applewhites are here! Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie S. Tolan is a Newbery Honor Book.” The Applewhite family, though somewhat eccentric and some might even think dysfunctional, is rather lovable in an oddball sort of way, and Jake does end up learning some important lessons about life and about himself, so there is a happy ending. However, not everyone will appreciate all aspects of the story. Traditional homeschoolers may not think that the picture of the completely unstructured and chaotic way in which the Applewhites run their Creative Academy is a very favorable view of homeschooling in general.

I am not an unschooler, nor do I necessarily encourage unschooling. However, I have known several unschoolers, and they have generally done well in achieving the education of their children, so this is not one of the aspects which bothers me. The Applewhites, at least Aunt Lucille, seem steeped in New Age religion with her zen, meditation guru, and talking to nature spirits. Someone else suggested that perhaps most of the adults are too self-absorbed and engrossed in their own lives to have much involvement in the children’s. As to language, Jake and others are said to swear and curse several times, though amazingly enough very little bad language is actually used. Jake wonders why E. D. is “pi**ed off,” and something is said to come “like bats out of he**.” However, one’s opinion of the entire book may hinge on whether one finds a great deal of humor in teenage Jake’s teaching little Destiny all about the meaning and usage of “the F word.” The actual term is never found in the book, but it is referred to in that way a number of times. The rest of the story is well-written and interesting to read even if it is a bit off-beat, but there are still at least a few of us left who do not find this sort of thing very amusing. The book is certainly not all bad, but as a result of this, I would not really encourage my children to read it. Christian parents would probably feel quite annoyed if their eight-year-old comes up while reading the book and asks, “Mommy, what is the F word?” The fact that a story which talks about using “the F word” won a Newbery Honor award doesn’t really surprise me because that kind of thing seems to be right down the American Library Association’s alley.
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Product Details

Tolan, Stephanie S
Tolan, Stephanie S.
by Stephanie S. Tolan
New York
Children's 12-Up - Fiction - General
Social Situations - Friendship
Family life
School & Education
Family - Multigenerational
North carolina
Social Situations - New Experience
Eccentrics and eccentricities
Children s All Ages - Fiction - General
Social Issues - Friendship
Social Issues - New Experience
Children s-General
Edition Description:
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
from 5
7.62x5.17x.47 in. .35 lbs.
Age Level:

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Children's » Awards » Newbery Award Winners
Children's » General
Children's » Middle Readers » Newbery Award Winners
Young Adult » Fiction » Newbery Award Winners
Young Adult » Fiction » Social Issues » Friendship
Young Adult » Fiction » Social Issues » New Experience

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