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Great Illustrated Books

The Homework Machine

By Dan Gutman

Simon & Schuster Children, 2006
Pages : 160
Suggested Ages: 9 and Up
ISBN: 9780689876783

Starting with a stern statement from the Grand Canyon, Arizona Police Chief Rebecca Fish, meet four fifth graders in big trouble. There's long-haired, rebellious, cool guy Sam Dawkins; fun-loving, unacademic, pink-haired Kelsey Donnelly, African American grind Judy Douglas, and friendless genius Brenton Damagatchi. The whole thing starts because Sam is anti-homework, especially the daily fill in-the-blank worksheets his first-year teacher Miss Rasmussen hands out. Sam is skeptical when Brenton claims he has programmed his computer to search the web and do all his homework each day, but it’s true. Soon the four seatmates are spending every afternoon in Brenton’s bedroom, printing out their daily assignments on the computer they nickname Belch. It can’t do any harm, right? The chronology and confession of their ill-fated escapade is related entirely through a series of transcripts, narrated by the four contrite kids, their parents, classmates, and Miss Rasmussen.

There are many interesting threads explored in this nimble story: keeping secrets, making friends, being popular, the morality of taking the easy way out, first crushes, the meaning of war, and even the loss of a parent. The setting of the Grand Canyon and sub-themes about playing chess, starting fads, and using a catapult will get kids looking up supporting information in books and on the Internet. Questions readers can think about as they read include: Which of the four main characters is most like or unlike you and why? Which one would or would not be your friend and why?

Reviewed by : JF.

Themes : DEATH. FRIENDSHIP. GRIEF. HUMOR.

If you love this book, then try:

Amato, Mary. The Word Eater. Holiday House, 2000. ISBN-13: 9780823419401



Clements, Andrew. Frindle. Simon & Schuster, 1996. ISBN-13: 9780689818769



Clements, Andrew. Lunch Money. Simon & Schuster, 2005. ISBN-13: 9780689866852



Clements, Andrew. No Talking. Simon & Schuster, 2007. ISBN-13: 9781416909835



Codell, Esm� Raji. Sahara Special. Hyperion, 2003. ISBN-13: 9780786816118



Fletcher, Ralph. Flying Solo. Clarion, 1998. ISBN-13: 9780395873236



Gutman, Dan. The Get Rich Quick Club. HarperCollins, 2004. ISBN-13: 9780060534424



Gutman, Dan. The Kid Who Ran for President. Scholastic, 1996. ISBN-13: 9780590939881



Gutman, Dan. Qwerty Stevens Back in Time: The Edison Mystery. Simon & Schuster, 2001. ISBN-13: 9780590939881



Park, Barbara. Maxie, Rosie, and Earl—Partners in Grime. Knopf, 1990. ISBN-13: 9780679806431



Pearsall, Shelley. All of the Above. Little, Brown, 2006. ISBN-13: 9780316115261



Rocklin, Joanne. For Your Eyes Only! Scholastic, 1997. ISBN-13: 9780142003220



Sachar, Louis. Sideways Stories from Wayside School. Morrow, 1978. ISBN-13: 9780380698714

Critics have said

"A dramatic and thought-provoking story with a strong message about honesty and friendship."
Elaine E. Knight, School Library Journal


"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, Booklist


"Tucked in between the laughs are excellent messages about tolerance, honesty, and the importance of what the students' teacher calls the "homework machine [that] already exists. It's called your brain."
Child Magazine


"Short chapters of alternating voices tell the story, which is funny in some places, but is not without intense and sometimes sad moments."
Susie Wilde, Children