Author: Dan Gutman
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Short, fun, interestingly organized, and about something that you aren’t supposed to do. A good book after reading all these novels about serious issues and murderous plots. The Homework Machine is about four kids – a geek, a class clown, a know-it-all teacher’s pet, and a slacker. A most peculiar combination of fifth-graders. In fact, if you mixed together their equivalents in food, you would probably get something resembling the insides of a septic tank. Brenton is an interesting kid – he dresses unlike other people, he parts his hair weird, and he’s light-years ahead of everybody in intelligence. You might be guessing he’s either the geek or the teacher’s pet. He’s the geek. Judy is a stuck-up snob in the beginning, and she has her ring of friends, but is despised among others. She is adored among teachers, but later on in the book her personality begins to change. Sam, or as other people call him, Snik, is in an awkward position as the new kid in school. The class clown, luckily, can define a potential friend from an enemy. Kelsey is just an average kid who gets grades just high enough to get her through the year, and desperately wants to be out of school.
One day, Brenton tells Snik that he has a homework machine, and, of course, Snik doesn’t believe him. So he comes over with Judy and Kelsey, who hear about the conversation, and like in any other good children’s book, Brenton’s computer with software he designed himself does their homework. They have the fallacy that if their homework is done for them, life will become easier. They’re wrong, but they don’t know that. So they bring their homework over so often it’s outrageous, and the foursome deigns each other their friendship. Eventually, after many rumors leak out, they are caught by the police and have to explain everything. Of course, they try to get out of trouble, but they fail miserably. Don’t worry, they don’t get put in quarantine or anything – it turns out kind of good, actually.
When I started reading, this book had me confused at the beginning. It was on my book list for school, and not because I wanted to read it (I had never heard of it), but because my teacher found good reviews on it and thought that it could be used for a review (which I’m writing right now). Turns out, it’s not what you would excpect from a school book. It’s about four kids and a machine that helps them cheat at homework. Probably not a teacher’s first choice of a book. I wasn’t at all bamboozled into thinking that this was a classic book – I mean, any book about a machine that does homework probably isn’t some dude with a PhD’s idea. You may think at first that this book has no place in any school setting whatsoever – that it would encourage kids to cheat on their boring after-school assignments. However, after reading this book, I found that it sort of got me that no matter how hard you try to conceal your “accidental glancing” at someone else’s paper, you will (almost) always get caught. Even if that accidental peeking isn’t at all peeking, but using some geek’s super computer to do homework in your handwriting at the touch of a button. Hey, anything’s possible.
The setup of this book is quite interesting. It’s like a review, except they follow the same story in the same order with no questions asked. Do you remember my review of The Red Pyramid? Well, it sort of like that, except with WAY more people. All the kids’ moms are in it, an enemy at school appears a few times, and even a police officer talks at the beginning and end. There are back stories and random explanations, which keep the story interesting. Friendships develop and diminish, and there’s always a mysterious flair to the words.
After reading this book I am almost voracious for more Dan Gutman. He delivers bits of everything, and gives his books plenty of humor and good-natured sarcasm. This was a short book, with easy vocab and plot, so I would recommend this book to kids ages 8 to 12.
Posted by: Fred Reads