Surviving the Applewhites

Book Summary:

With his spiked hair and all-black clothing, 13-year-old Jake looks the part of the juvenile delinquent he’s supposed to be. He’s moved from Rhode Island to rural North Carolina to stay with his grandfather, and the only educational institution that will have him is the Creative Academy, the homeschool run by the zany Applewhite family. The Applewhites, from four-year-old Destiny to grandfather Zedediah, are all creative, talented, artistic types, and their haphazardly run school is more of a self-education opportunity. E.D., the almost 13-year-old daughter of the clan, feels like the odd one out—her talents lie in organization, not in art, writing, dance, or theater, like the rest of the family. But when her director father undertakes a local production of The Sound of Music, all the Applewhites throw themselves into making it a success. E.D. is indispensable as stage manager, and Jake gets a starring role in the play and discovers a passion for the stage. Just like the butterflies they hatch from caterpillars as part of a self-directed science project, the two adolescents find their wings.

Michelle’s Review:

Jake Semple is a 13 year old boy who got kicked out of every school in Rhode Island and then was shipped to live at his grandfather’s. After the local school kicks him out, his grandfather turns to the Applewhites, an unschooling family who have various artistic talents all the way from the grandfather to the youngest child. It is a story of unschooling at its best with children who are self-motivated to make their own curricula as they see fit. Jake is thrown in and expected to make his way through his own homeschooling experience with help from the Applewhites. He discovers that he too has a talent, and he is put to the test to see if he will use it or not. I was drawn into the Applewhite’s homeschooling world and wishing I could go there too, so to me that makes a great book. The story shows kids that no matter what you look like, it is what is in the inside that counts.

Educational Activities for Surviving the Applewhites
Take a spelling test using vocabulary from the book.
Similar to Hangman, the objective is to guess the word in a set number of tries.
The objective of this game is to put the words into alphabetical order.
The objective of this game is to put the word back together from a scrambled set of letters.
The objective of this game is to pair cards based on the words and sounds.
ReadingComprehensionIcon Comprehension Questions A set of thoughtful essay questions about the story.
Fill in the puzzle with correct answers .
Multiple Choice A printable set of questions about the story.

Fun facts and games about North Carolina (the setting for the book). Art and music learning games for kids (goes with the character’s occupations)

  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (December 23, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0064410447
  • ISBN-13: 978-0064410441


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  1. Karen says:

    Very good book. My eleven year old enjoyed it and I look forward reading it with my 9 year old. Good book for boys or girls.

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