THE HOMEWORK MACHINE
by Dan Gutman

Accelerated Reader: Level: 4.8. Pts. 4.
Number of Multiple Choice Questions on Quiz: 10.


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Book Description: 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.