Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Surviving the Aplewhites, by Stephanie S. Tolan

This is a laugh-out-loud comedy. Although it would be classified by librarians as realistic fiction, I think it also is semi-autobiographical. The basic premise is that Jake Semple, juvenile delinquent, is going to be "saved" by a writer who brings him into their family's "home school." The Applewhites live in a compound of creativity and genius. (This is where I am put-off a bit by the semi-autobiographical nature of the book. But reality is always a good beginning point for fiction.

The book gives lots of opportunities for discussion of artistic temperament, education and family interactions. I enjoyed the book and will recommend it to others. However, I doubt that I would suggest it as a whole class reading. It is not quite strong enough in the area of universal themes to justify such a lofty place in the curriculum. I would recommend it to students who enjoy humor (including slapstick) and those with aspirations of a career in the arts.

Having worked with friends who were or are directors of high school drama productions and summer theater productions, I have to say that the book portrays the work that goes into such productions quite clearly. For students who want to be involved with the theater this would be a great book to recommend. It is also very useful to discuss inquiry projects.

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