Chapter Books – Surviving the Applewhites

E. D. Applewhite is the only normal person in her family, as far as she is concerned. She lives in the middle of nowhere with her extremely eccentric family of artists. Her aunts and uncles are poets and writers and artistic furniture designers. Her mother is a writer, her father a theater director, her sister a dancer, and her older brother a recluse. Her younger brother is four years old, and something of a nuisance. Unfortunately, none of them have a practical bone in their body, unlike the organized E.D. Ever since the family decided to start their own homeschooling academy, she’s been pretty much on her own in running her education.

Thus she’s surprised by how annoyed she is when a new student arrives at the “academy”. Jake has been kicked out of several schools already; his choices have been reduced to staying with the Applewhites and going to school with E.D., or being sent to juvie where the really bad kids are. He’s not happy, but he’s willing to make this work. E.D. is sure he’s going to set the entire house on fire.

Apparently this is save-the-play review week (see yesterday’s entry for Suite Scarlett) since this book also features a raggle-taggle group of actors and theater-folk attempting to save an otherwise doomed performance. Even E.D., who had previously come to the conclusion that she was completely useless and ignored by the rest of the family, is able to use her own unique skills to help out. Meanwhile, Jake is finding it much more rewarding to have people pay attention to his positive actions than to his getting in trouble.

The book is hilarious, with all sorts of funny situations and quirky characters. While some of the supporting characters are a little larger-than-life or over the top, the two viewpoint characters, E.D. and Jake, are fully fleshed out and appealing. Both of them undergo major re-evaluations of their lives and their roles within the Applewhite clan in a realistic manner.  E.D. is appropriately sullen and angry at the intruder into her life, while Jake is “bad boy” with a reputation that’s been hard to shake. The subplot revolving around butterflies and their transformation is a great reflection of the changes in the two children. The book was a Newbery Honor.

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