Reviews for Homework Machine

Booklist Reviews 2006 February #1
/*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. ((Reviewed February 1, 2006)) Copyright 2006 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2006 Fall
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. Copyright 2006 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2006 February #1
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) Copyright Kirkus 2006 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

School Library Journal Reviews 2006 April

Gr 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

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