Review and Summary: The Homework Machine
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
Filed under Uncategorized
Tagged as book review , Children's Fiction , Dan Gutman , fiction , Simon and Schuster , Summary , The Homework Machine
4 responses to “ Review and Summary: The Homework Machine ”
This review is interesting to me stylistically. I had a hunch after your last reviews on the Hunger Games that you were taking on a style of the book in your review. I really enjoy that idea. In this review, hoewever, it struck me a bit differently. For instance, you began your first paragraph with a few fragments. I understood what you meant very clearly and found the conversational tone to be charming. It still made my inner grammar freak twitch.
What are your thoughts on this?
Yeah, grammar is the only thing that I don’t really pay attention to. I mean, I’m not all like “Duh, me no like grammar and stuff,” but I will admit to a few errors once in a while. In fact, I’m sure you’ll be able to pick out some errors in this comment. I’m good at spelling (relatively) but sometimes I just let somthin’ slip. And honestly, I don’t even mean to organize a review in a specific way. It’s like a part of my brain that I can’t control determining how I’m going to do it based on my mood or the kind of book. I do think though that some of my sentences are a little too short.
I know what you mean about your reviews reflecting your mood at the time. I think that is why I haven’t written any in a while. I am still reading, but my life has been subject to some stress and craziness lately. Everything I write is no good. It’s a frustrating feeling. I’m hoping to get some rest this weekend and be able to sit down and write a bit. I’ve been wanting to tell you about this really interesting book I read a few mints ago, actually. Stay tuned for that.
I have something for you to be stay tuned for, actually. I just sent one of my spies (a friend who came over) to collect emails and signatures from my friends that go to his school. I’m basically making a petition to present to my mom. If I get enough of them, she might let me have a blog with my friends. That means that your going to have to help me a little. Actually, the only thing I need your help with is filtering the posts that go on the blog, like you do with my posts. It’s not that I’m being big-brother-ish, I just don’t want anything bad or unnecessary going up.
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Books My Kids Read
The Homework Machine – A story of ethics
What if you had a machine that could do all of your homework for you? Would you share that information? What would you do with all of the extra time? How would you feel about using the machine? These are all questions that come up in Dan Gutman’s The Homework Machine .
We picked up this book because it is on the 2016-17 NC elementary school Battle of the Books. J really enjoyed this book and simply couldn’t put it down. For her, she felt that this was one of those books where you really felt like you were a part of the story. She felt that she was right there in the story, seeing it through the characters’ eyes. One reason for that sense of perspective comes from the fact that you read all of the actions from various perspectives. Whereas The Candymakers focused on a long period of time from one character and then repeated that whole segment from another character’s perspective, The Homework Machine, switches from paragraph to paragraph in the four main characters’ perspectives as well as the teacher, two mothers and a few classmates.
J also felt very connected to one of the characters because the two had a great deal in common. With four very distinct personalities, it is probable that a reader will feel a certain bond or kinship with an individual character.
From an adult perspective, it was very interesting to see how the kids not only dealt with the notion of right and wrong when it came to using the machine, but also how they developed as individuals. Judy, the intelligent class-pet who worked hard but excelled, struggled with the most guilt throughout the story. Sam, the class clown, and Kelsey, the slacker, wanted to utilize the homework machine the most because they truly struggled when it came to doing the work and wanted an easy out, so they dealt with less guilt. Brenton invented it as a way to free up his time to study other things that he wasn’t doing in school and because he knew all of the answers anyway.
In addition to the ethical question of using a homework machine, part of the story dealt with each child’s desire, or lack there-of, of fitting in, especially through the eyes of Aam. Sam struggles with both a great deal of self-doubt and yet a strong need to be seen as cool. By being a part of the foursome and seeing Brenton seriously not care what others thought of him, helped Sam have more faith in himself.
This is a great book to get kids thinking about ethics. Additionally, it also highlights the fact that you can’t judge a book, or person, by it’s cover and that we don’t know what others are going through. As we have started to read a few other Battle of the Books entries, that seems to be a theme for a selection of them this year and it is a great way to help teach empathy. All in all, this was a very enjoyable book.
Sounds like a great read! My son would do anything to get out of homework. Great review!
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The Homework Machine Summary and Analysis
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Estimated Read Time : 3 minutes
Word Count: 850
Top Quotes from The Homework Machine
These are the top 3 quotes from The Homework Machine by Dan Gutman. View all 7 quotes from The Homework Machine.
“Abraham Lincoln once said "That is cool"? It's true. I looked it up. He said it in his famous Cooper Union speech. Google it if you don't believe me.”
“If everybody was cool, everybody would be the same. Nobody would be cooler than anyone else. There would be nobody to make fun of. So I suppose I serve a purpose, in a weird way.”
“I feel that a person can change himself or herself no more than a giraffe can decide it doesn't like having a long neck. It would be easy enough to buy the latest clothes and watch the hot new TV shows and surround myself with cool things.”
More Books by Dan Gutman
FreeBookNotes has 19 more books by Dan Gutman, with a total of 58 study guides.
- Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
The Homework Machine (review)
- Loretta Gaffney
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 59, Number 7, March 2006
- pp. 312-313
- View Citation
- The Homework Machine
Fifth-graders nicknamed "Group D" seem to have only one thing in common—their last names. Sam Dawkins, the new kid, is a troublemaker; Kelsey Donnelly wants nothing to do with school; Judy Douglas is an overachiever; and Brenton Damagatchi has always been an outcast, albeit a genius. Brenton's hunger for friends leads him to break down one day and admit to Sam that he has invented a homework machine to complete mundane, day-to-day assignments he can't be bothered to finish. Initially disbelieving, Group D discovers that the homework machine really does exist and starts to use it for every assignment, until rumors begin to circulate that they cheat. What might have been yet another cautionary tale about the importance of doing homework adds a few wrinkles with the unlikely yet genuine friendships that develop between the members of Group D and the telling of the story through interwoven police "testimonies" from the kids, their teacher, and other characters. Sam discovers chess through Brenton and it becomes not just a hobby, but also a way for him to connect with his soldier father via email chess games while he is serving in the Middle East. The somewhat abrupt blow delivered by Sam's father's [End Page 312] death in an otherwise fairly light-hearted story is softened by the compassion offered to Sam by Kelsey, who lost her own father when she was six. Though the roles are sometimes hackneyed (especially the overserious Asian-American genius) and the discovery of the group's plan is inevitable, the buildup to the climax is suspenseful. The moral of the story—do your homework—isn't likely to surprise anyone, but the lasting friendships that evolve out of what is essentially cheating and the death of a parent (along with some implicit questioning of the war) make this school story an unexpectedly complex page-turner.
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THE HOMEWORK MACHINE
by Dan Gutman ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 1, 2006
When fifth-graders Judy, Sam and Kelsey discover their classmate Brenton Damagatchi’s homework machine, they think they are on to a good thing and begin to visit him regularly after school. Alphabetically seated at the same table, the brilliant Asian-American computer geek, hardworking, high-achieving African-American girl, troubled army brat and ditzy girl with pink hair would seem to have nothing in common. (They would also seem to be stereotypes, but young readers won’t mind.) But they share an aversion to the time-consuming grind of after-school work. Their use of the machine doesn’t lead to learning—as a surprise spring quiz demonstrates—but it does lead to new friendships and new interests. The events of their year are told chronologically in individual depositions to the police. In spite of the numerous voices, the story is easy to follow, and the change in Sam, especially, is clear, as he discovers talents beyond coolness thanks to a new interest in chess. Middle-grade readers may find one part of this story upsettingly realistic and the clearly stated moral not what they had hoped to hear, but the generally humorous approach will make the lesson go down easily. (Fiction. 8-11)
Pub Date: March 1, 2006
Page Count: 160
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2006
Categories: CHILDREN'S SOCIAL THEMES
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A 12-year-old copes with a brain tumor.
Maddie likes potatoes and fake mustaches. Kids at school are nice (except one whom readers will see instantly is a bully); soon they’ll get to perform Shakespeare scenes in a unit they’ve all been looking forward to. But recent dysfunctions in Maddie’s arm and leg mean, stunningly, that she has a brain tumor. She has two surgeries, the first successful, the second taking place after the book’s end, leaving readers hanging. The tumor’s not malignant, but it—or the surgeries—could cause sight loss, personality change, or death. The descriptions of surgery aren’t for the faint of heart. The authors—parents of a real-life Maddie who really had a brain tumor—imbue fictional Maddie’s first-person narration with quirky turns of phrase (“For the love of potatoes!”) and whimsy (she imagines her medical battles as epic fantasy fights and pretends MRI stands for Mustard Rat from Indiana or Mustaches Rock Importantly), but they also portray her as a model sick kid. She’s frightened but never acts out, snaps, or resists. Her most frequent commentary about the tumor, having her skull opened, and the possibility of death is “Boo” or “Super boo.” She even shoulders the bully’s redemption. Maddie and most characters are white; one cringe-inducing hallucinatory surgery dream involves “chanting island natives” and a “witch doctor lady.”
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Tyler is the son of generations of Vermont dairy farmers.
Mari is the Mexican-born daughter of undocumented migrant laborers whose mother has vanished in a perilous border crossing. When Tyler’s father is disabled in an accident, the only way the family can afford to keep the farm is by hiring Mari’s family. As Tyler and Mari’s friendship grows, the normal tensions of middle-school boy-girl friendships are complicated by philosophical and political truths. Tyler wonders how he can be a patriot while his family breaks the law. Mari worries about her vanished mother and lives in fear that she will be separated from her American-born sisters if la migra comes. Unashamedly didactic, Alvarez’s novel effectively complicates simple equivalencies between what’s illegal and what’s wrong. Mari’s experience is harrowing, with implied atrocities and immigration raids, but equally full of good people doing the best they can. The two children find hope despite the unhappily realistic conclusions to their troubles, in a story which sees the best in humanity alongside grim realities.
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The Homework Machine #1
The homework machine.
The unlikely foursome made up of a geek, a class clown, a teacher's pet, and a slacker -- Brenton, Sam "Snick,", Judy and Kelsey, respectively, -- are bound together by one very big secret: the homework machine. Because the machine, code named Belch, is doing their homework for them, they start spending a lot of time together, attracting a lot of attention. And attention is exactly what you don't want when you are keeping a secret.
Before long, members of the D Squad, as they are called at school are getting strange Instant Messages from a shady guy named Milner; their teacher, Miss Rasmussen, is calling private meetings with each of them and giving them pop tests that they are failing; and someone has leaked the possibility of a homework machine to the school newspaper. Just when the D Squad thinks things can't get any more out of control, Belch becomes much more powerful than they ever imagined. Soon the kids are in a race against their own creation, and the loser could end up in jail...or worse!
160 pages, Hardcover
First published March 1, 2006
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Upper Elementary & Junior High Plus
When fifth grade genius Brenton invents a machine to do his homework for him, his deskmates-Snik, the class clown; Judy, the teacher’s pet; and Kelsey, slacker extraordinaire-want in on the action. The unlikely foursome eventually become friends, but what happens when the secret is too big for one of them to keep?
5 1/2" x 8 1/4"
4.8: points 4.
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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
When Brenton, a decidedly uncool fifth grader, programs his computer to do his homework, three other students happily use the program, too. The burden of keeping the machine secret, however, weighs heavily on this improbable group of friends. Although the story is enjoyable, the format--snippets from the police report as each child explains what happened--isn't always convincing.
Clean Books,Chapter Books/Novels,Fiction,Reluctant Readers,Transitional Readers,Realistic Fiction
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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
The Homework Machine tells the story of four fifth graders who found a way out of doing their homework. The foursome is made up of a geek
Find all available study guides and summaries for The Homework Machine by Dan Gutman. If there is a SparkNotes, Shmoop, or Cliff Notes guide
Fifth-graders nicknamed "Group D" seem to have only one thing in common—their last names. Sam Dawkins, the new kid, is a troublemaker; Kelsey Donnelly wants
Summary: A group of 4 students made up of a geek, a class clown, a teacher's pet, and a slacker come together and form a friendship all
In the beginning of this book, a red blinking chip which was the source of energy for the Homework Machine, goes missing. The D-Squad soon finds out that
When fifth-graders Judy, Sam and Kelsey discover their classmate Brenton Damagatchi's homework machine, they think they are on to a good thing and begin to
This book was a good one that I'd recomend for kids ages 10-12. 'The Homework Machine' by Dan Gutman takes you on a sort of sci-fi adventure, when Sam, Brenton
1.) Snikwad was playing a game of chess online with his father, since his father is at war. One day, when Snikwad was waiting for his father to move, Snikwad
When fifth grade genius Brenton invents a machine to do his homework for him, his deskmates-Snik, the class clown; Judy, the teacher's pet; and Kelsey