“The Homework Machine” by Dan Gutman (ages 8 -12) crept up on me when I was least expecting it. I thought I was reading a jaunty, comic fantasy about every kids’ secret wish to own a machine that does their homework for them. A light farce and nothing more. Because of its short quick interview style, I figured it might be particularly good for 4th/5th grade boys who don’t like to read much. (Which, as it turns out, it is)
But lo and behold, this small book turns out to have a great big heart and leaves you with lots to chew on.
For a quick summary, let’s jump to the book jacket, shall we! “Meet the D Squad, a foursome of fifth graders at the Grand Canyon School made up of a geek, a class clown, a teacher’s pet, and a slacker. They 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, things start to get out of control, and Belch becomes much more powerful than they ever imagined. Now the kids are in a race against their own creation, and the loser could end up in jail…or worse!”
Mr. Gutman has a reputation for being a writer that 4th – 6th grade boys, in particular, enjoy. If you’ve got one of those living in your house and are looking for something to get him reading, “The Homework Machine” would be a good place to start.