What would you do if you were a fifth grader facing a huge homework load every night, and you found out that there was a machine that would do all the work for you? (Do we even have to ask?) That's the situation presented to Sam, Kelsey, Judy and Brenton in Dan Gutman's entertaining new book for young readers, The Homework Machine.

 

The four children, all fifth graders in Miss Rasmussen's class at Grand Canyon School, are as different as any four 11-year-olds could be, but they have one thing in common all are somewhat isolated from their peers. Sam's a newcomer and has had his share of school trouble before; Kelsey quietly carries her grief at losing her father; Judy's righteous sense of indignation constantly irritates others; and Brenton . . . well, he's another story entirely. Brenton is easily the smartest kid in school, so smart that even his parents and teachers have trouble keeping up with him. When Brenton and his three classmates are assigned to the same study group by their first-year teacher, the others discover that Brenton has created a time-saving gadget to do his homework for him. While the boy genius is perfectly capable of doing the homework himself, Sam, Kelsey and Judy could use the help.

Having perfect grades is something new for these three, and as they meet on a daily basis to do homework, they find that they're learning a lot about each other. Such a good thing can't last though, and when a mystery man starts trying to contact them, the kids start to get nervous. Soon there's an even scarier problem why can't the Homework Machine be turned off?

Told in alternating voices (as all the participants make statements to the Grand Canyon Police), the story unfolds in intriguing fashion. Gutman is a talented writer with dozens of children's books to his credit, and his latest is a funny and thought-provoking tale that should appeal equally to boys and girls. Put it in your lesson plan.

James Neal Webb thinks adults dread helping with homework as much as children dread doing it.

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