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Tolan, Stephanie S.
New York : HorperCollins, 2002.
IL 5.8, RL 5.7
ISBN 0066236037

(8 booktalks)

Booktalk #1

Jake can't be all bad.  After all, the Applewhite's beloved basset hound, Winston, takes to him right away.  Wit's End, the Applewhite's farm, is the end of the road for Jake Semple, a 13-year-old juvenile delinquent who is given one last chance to reform.  The family has graciously invited Jake to study at their "Creative Academy" where each of the highly talented and narcissistic off-spring create their own educational pathways.  Edie, who likes to be called E. D. (E period D period), is supposedly the only "untalented" member of the family.  But she has more of  sense of organization and curriculum development than anyone.  She is frustrated at every turn.  At first, the chaos makes no sense to Jake who continuously tries to shock the family with his language and behavior.  He finds that he is not getting through to them.  they simply overlook these things and keep on accepting him anyway.  Gradually he begins to change and even finds some hidden talents of his own.  This story is filled with warm, eccentric characters and has an extravagant ending that you won't want to miss.  (New Hampshire Great Stone Face Committee)

Booktalk #2

Jake is about as bad as they come.  He's been kicked out of just about every school in the state of Rhode Island.  Rumor has it that he actually burned down the last one.  Now he's been sent to live with his grandfather in North Carolina.  He can't handle him either and Jake has been kicked out of yet another school.  Is there no hope for this boy?  Enter the Applewhites.  A eccentric family of artists who live in a small town and home school their own kids.  They agree to take Jake in and let him join their school.  Jake just doesn't know what to make of these people.  There seems to be no rules and yet everyone seems to know what they are supposed to do.  Life on at Wit's End is full of surprises and unexpected lessons for Jake.

Booktalk #3

Jake Semple leaves a wake of trouble wherever he goes. He has been kicked out of every school in Rhode Island. His social worker has thrown up her hands. Jake has been sent to live with his Grandfather, in North Carolina. Perhaps a new school will make a difference. Well, that new school lasted 3 weeks. What will become of Jake now? Grandfather has an idea... The Applewhites.  The Applewhites are an artistic family whose parents and extended family home school the children, otherwise known by the Applewhites, as The Creative Academy. This country bumpkin family ought to be a piece of cake for juvenile delinquent Jake Semple. Or is it? Read Surviving the Applewhites to discover how Jake Semple really survives.  (Catherine Ryan,

 Booktalk #4

Bad kid.  Living up to that label was what Jake did best.  Everybody, even the teachers and principal, had been scared of the “bad kid” from the city.  13-year-old Jake has red spiked hair, a silver ring through one of his dark brown eyebrow, and too many earrings to count.  He always dresses in black ­ black t-shirt, black jeans, black running shoes ­ and the look in his eyes is pure mean.

                    Jake’s parents are in jail for growing marijuana in their basement and Jake has been getting into trouble ever since.  He has been expelled from a long line of schools and kicked out of many foster homes.  There is no place left for Jake to go except to Juvenile Hall.  But then he gets one last chance.  He is invited to attend the Creative Academy ­ where the Applewhite children are home schooled.  Since the family does not believe in telling the children what or when to study and are allowed to do as they please, Jake is left to his own devices at this unstructured school.  The Applewhite family are very artistic, except for 12-year-old E.D. who longs for order and predictability.

                    Find out how Jake survives the Applewhites and begins to discover his own potential and sense of belonging in this outrageously unusual family.  (Lena Michaud,

Booktalk #5

Jake is just about as bad as they come.  Trouble with a capital ‘T’!  Working his hardest to live up to his reputation of being a juvenile delinquent, Jake finds himself running out of options.  After being thrown out of almost every school in the state of Rhode Island, his grandfather sends him to the Applewhite’s “Creative Academy.”  This should be ‘Easy Street’ for Jake.  Once he arrives, he discovers a school in which the students decide what and when they will study.  There seem to be no rules.  The kids are allowed to do as they please.  Teachers are usually too busy to hang around for class.  Read Surviving the Applewhites to find out how Jake survives and how he begins to discover who he really is and can become.

Prepared by:  Tami Huggins for South Carolina Junior Book Award 2005

Booktalk #6

Surviving the Applewhites. HarperTrophy, ©2003.
This screwball contemporary comedy springs to life with the adventures of quirky characters and the infusion of offbeat humor. Tough guy Jake Semple meets his match in the eccentric Applewhites family who operate the unstructured Creative Academy. After Jake is sent there as a last chance for attending school, he resists getting involved with the manic household’s creative, talented members, but he is finally pulled into Mr. Applewhite’s little theater production of The Sound of Music. As this fast-paced and humorous tale unfolds, Jake embarks on a journey of self-discovery and begins to discover his own potential.  (Sunshine State Young Reader’s Award Program, 2004-2005)

Booktalk #7

Jake Semple has been kicked out of every single middle school in Rhode Island. He was accused of burning down the last school he attended in Traybridge. As a last resort, he has moved to North Carolina to live with his Uncle Harry, who lives next door to the Applewhites. The Applewhites are about the furthest thing from your typical next door neighbors. They run a home school on their property. The school is called “The Creative Academy” and the property is called “Wit’s End.” The family is full of artistic types: Aunt Lucille, whose idea it was to take Jake in, practices meditation with her guru, Cordelia,  is a dancer who has just  finished with her flower arranging phase, Zedediah, is the grandpa with a parrot that swears in several languages and Hal is the fifteen-year-old who never comes out of his room when anyone else is around: he’s too busy making works of art. E.D., whose first name is really Edith, is the only “normal” person in the clan, and she is not happy about Jake’s arrival. This is a hilarious story where this crazy cast of characters gets involved with the local play production of the Sound of Music.  (Melissa Bowman,, Armstrong Middle School)

Booktalk #8

Moving into a house full of people who all have artistic abilities can be complicated. Jake Semple was kicked out of every school he had ever attended. Rumor has it he even burnt down his last school. Jake was sent to live with his grandfather in North Carolina. He only made it in the new school for three weeks. Most people believe there is no hope. But the Applewhites think differently. They are going to give Jake a chance to prove himself by allowing him to attend their school. They required him to give up his smoking and attend school every day, completing all tasks required. Jake does not feel he fits in with this family because they already know what to do but do not have no set rules. Will Jake make it with his last chance or will he be sent to a juvenile center? Will Jake become involved in the artistic activities? Read Surviving the Applewhites to find out.  (Meaghan Wendland,, college student)

SUBJECTS:     Eccentrics and eccentricities -- Fiction.
                        Theater -- Fiction.
                        Family life -- North Carolina -- Fiction.
                        North Carolina -- Fiction.


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