The Applewhites, an unschooling family with artistic talents ranging from painting to composing, open their creative environment to Jake, a 13-year-old juvenile delinquent. As the diverse family flutters about their eccentric lives, Jake tries to find his place in the “artistic dynasty”.
While the bulk of us real world homeschoolers learn at the dining room table or the cluttered family room, The Applewhite clan have eight cottages, a goat shed, a barn, a main house, and 16 acres of land. Cool environment, but the kids are solely responsible for their own education – the Applewhite parents are too engrossed in their own lives to have much involvement in their children’s. The care of the youngest Applewhite falls on delinquent Jake, who smokes and swears, and discusses the “f” word (the actual word is never used in the book) with the 4-year-old. The pre-schooler proceeds to idolize Jake, even to the point of imitating his hairstyle and history of arson.
Wow, this book took effort to finish. The numerous and extreme characters are completely self-absorbed, the plot is wild, and readers will have to sift through stiff dialogues and wordy passages to try and follow the story. And the portrayal of the unschooled/homeschooler was not what I would consider favorable. Surviving the Applewhites, a 2003 Newbery Honor, sits on the high school required reading shelf at our library – right next to Tolkien. Unless you’re looking for some good TV sitcom material, I suggest you find something better to read, like Tolkien .