The Homework Machine

by Dan Gutman (Author)

The Homework Machine
Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

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!
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School Library Journal

Starred Review
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" Copyright 2006 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication date
March 20, 2006
BISAC categories
JUV039060 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Friendship
JUV035000 - Juvenile Fiction | School & Education
JUV039220 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Values & Virtues
Library of Congress categories
Interpersonal relations
Cheating (Education)
Maine Student Book Award
Second Place 2008 - 2008
North Carolina Children's Book Award
Nominee 2008 - 2008
Keystone to Reading Book Award
Nominee 2008 - 2008
Land of Enchantment Book Award
Nominee 2008 - 2009
Sunshine State Young Reader's Award
Nominee 2009 - 2009
South Carolina Childrens, Junior and Young Adult Book Award
Nominee 2008 - 2009
Colorado Children's Book Award
Nominee 2009 - 2009
Nene Award
Recommended 2010 - 2010
Nutmeg Book Award
Nominee 2009 - 2009
Sasquatch Award
Winner 2009 - 2009
Virginia Readers Choice Award
Nominee 2009 - 2009
Golden Sower Award
Nominee 2010 - 2010
Volunteer State Book Awards
Nominee 2010 - 2011
Young Reader's Choice Award
Nominee 2009 - 2009
Iowa Children's Choice (ICCA) Award
Nominee 2009 - 2010
Massachusetts Children's Book Award
Honor Book 2008 - 2009

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