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The Homework Machine Hardcover – March 1, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 4-6-Fifth-grader Brenton is a computer genius, but the other three members of his work group think he's a nerd. So, when he tells them that he has invented a machine that does homework, they taunt him until he agrees to demonstrate. The machine actually works, and Kelsey, Sam, and Judy convince him to let them use it. At first, they are delighted with their freedom, but things quickly get out of hand. Their teacher is suspicious of the suddenly errorless work, and other friends resent the time that they spend together. The dynamics within the group are stressful as well. Judy, a talented student, feels guilty about cheating, but is pressured to excel. Kelsey is concerned that her friends will shun her for associating with nerds, but her improved grades earn privileges at home. Wisecracking Sam makes fun of Brenton but needs his help in playing chess by mail with his dad, who is serving in Iraq. The children gradually begin to bond, especially after Sam's father is killed in combat. Eventually, their secret causes conflict with the law. The story is told entirely through short excerpts from police interviews. This device shows the developing relationships through the kids' own observations. There are touches of humor in the way the four classmates talk about themselves and one another. Ominous hints about the legal trouble maintain tension throughout the story, but its exact nature isn't revealed until near the end. A dramatic and thought-provoking story with a strong message about honesty and friendship.-Elaine E. Knight, Lincoln Elementary Schools, IL
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Gr. 4-6. In a novel about a boy clever enough to make his computer do his homework for him, Gutman delivers a fresh take on an idea as old as Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine (1958). The nontraditional narrative unfolds through the words of a large cast of characters, from a teacher to the police chief to the students in a fifth-grade class. Each chapter is a series of first-person entries, from a single line to a page in length, focusing primarily on four very different students who are assigned to the same group in school. Although they are not friends at the beginning of the book, they form an alliance of convenience that grows into something more after the temptation of a homework machine draws them together. A vivid subplot involves Sam, whose father is sent to war in the Middle East. This fast-paced, entertaining book has something for everyone: convincing characters deftly portrayed through their own words; points of discussion on ethics and student computer use; and every child's dream machine. Booktalkers will find this a natural, particularly for those hard-to-tempt readers whose preferred method of computer disposal involves a catapult and the Grand Canyon. Carolyn Phelan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 680L (What's this?)
  • Series: AWARDS: Sunshine State Young Readers Elementary 2008-2009
  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers; Repackage edition (March 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0689876785
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689876783
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #308,367 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

This is hard. I'm a pretty regular Jersey guy who spent fifteen years trying to write newspaper articles, magazine articles, screenplays, books for adults, and just about everything else before I discovered the one thing I'm good at--writing fiction for kids. I aim for kids who DON'T like to read, and hopefully the kids who DO like to read will enjoy my stuff too. For all the gory details about me, check out my web site.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

130 of 160 people found the following review helpful By SusieQ on September 2, 2008
Format: Paperback
I purchased this book for my about-to-be 4th grader. I liked the format of everything written in the first person-i.e. each of the four characters writes a narrative. The plot ended up being a little thin and the ending was a let down.

My biggest objection was the multiple uses of the word "sucks" and at least one "freaking" (as a substitute for the "F" word). Maybe it's acceptable for teens to use these words on a regular basis but I didn't feel it was appropriate for a 9 year old. I discontinued this book with my kids after 2 chapters for this reason. Call me old fashioned but I just thought other parents might like to know the content.

As other reviewers have mentioned, the treatment of the war was a little much for this age as well.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Hal Derbyshire on May 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book is about four kids who create a homework machine to do they're homework for them, but is this a gift or a curse? Their classmates begin to get suspicious and attempt to get them to admit it, but will one of them crack?

I enjoyed how everyone gets to express they're own point of view throughout the book, and how the author introduces different characters throughout the book. It's a shame that it didn't last longer, but then again I didn't stop reading it so that would be why.

The homework machine is one of my favourite books of this genre the layout is fun to read, Dan Gutman has exceeded himself in this book. I like how people that are completely different gradually over time become friends. This was one of the greatest books I've read in a long time. You have to read this book, beacause it is a brilliant read that will interest your kids and most likely yourself.
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30 of 36 people found the following review helpful By clarksville on August 5, 2010
Format: Paperback
It's puzzling what Dan Gutman had in mind when he decided to make the characters of this book 5th graders.

The four kid protagonists are (spoiler alert) two boyfriend/girlfriend couples that go out on dates, hold hands and get "lovey dovey" with each other, as Gutman puts it.

One pierces her navel and dyes her hair pink with her mother's consent.

They amble around town on their bikes with no supervision and their parents have no clue where they are. They even sneak out of their houses and take an unattended nighttime bike ride to the rim of the Grand Canyon. That kind of freedom might have been commonplace 20 years ago, but it's just not realistic now.

Really scary: While the four are hanging out at one child's home without any parents around, a man who has been cyber-stalking the children comes to the door. They recognize him, and, even though they are terrified of him, open the door and speak with him. He proceeds to outline a proposed business deal with nary a mention of mom or dad.

The book has plenty of redeeming value - it's fast-paced and funny in places, and deals with serious themes, from war to cheating, but it's hard to get past the dissonance between the kids' age and behavior.
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21 of 28 people found the following review helpful By M. Heiss on September 18, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book had an interesting structure -- a series of brief interview transcripts with the characters. There are four kids, a teacher, and some parents. The plot was a little weak with unanswered questions, but a third or fourth grader reading this book probably would be more turned on by the idea of a homework machine.

There is a strong theme through the book about how cheating becomes lying becomes paranoia becomes outright hostility. That's worthwhile, and it was well-developed. I liked that it was set in Arizona, although if you have a parent stationed at Luke AFB, that family is not going to live at the Grand Canyon. The two are four or five hours' drive apart. That's an error, but it's not the end of the world. So far, so good.

I took away one star: The book's adults are clueless, disinterested, or overly-permissive. This goes for parents and the teacher.

A couple of language uses that we don't say, especially "sucks" and "dork" -- not a major deal. Dan Gutman apparently thinks that there was a school in the 1990s whose teachers were permitted to rap knuckles with rulers -- because the teacher in this story went to that school. I defy you to find me one American school that allowed corporal punishment in the 90s. I went to school in the 70s and there was none. That's a ridiculous error. I dropped another star for that.

My big sticking point on this book: it has has a theme of anti-war running through it that takes cheap shots at kids. Here are a few of the many war references we have in this book:

*p 30: A bumper sticker that says "War is not the answer"
*p 31: the best support you can give to the military is to keep them out of wars... these issues tend to make people very emotional and are best avoided.
Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By 8th Grade Reading on April 15, 2010
Format: Paperback
The Homework Machine by Dan Gutman is a fictional novel about a homework machine that was invented in the Grand Canyon. The owners of the homework machine are called the D squad because their last names all end in D. Brenton, Sam, Judy, and Kelsey are called into the police station when it is reported that someone has a machine, invented to do homework.

There are 4 main characters in this book. First, Sam, a kid who is arrogant, convinces the other kids to use the homework machine even though I don't like him he advances the plot so I guess he is key to the story. Next, Brenton is a nerd, who invents the homework machine I like him because he is kind. Third, Judy, who is a smart girl also kind, reluctantly gets pulled into this plot is kind to people so I like her. Finally, I feel sorry for Kelsey since everyone thinks she is stupid up until a certain point in the story.

I loved the book when I read it in 4th grade. So now I am in 8th grade and decided to read it again for the heck of it. Have parts that are suspenseful and can be scary, not like too scary but just a tad scary. Even though I didn't think I would like the book because I am in 8th grade I think it is still a good book.

It is written for younger kids, I realize now. It can also be for anyone who enjoys a laugh.
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