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The Homework Machine

By Dan Gutman

( 169 ratings )

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Dan Gutman is the New York Times bestselling author of the Genius Files series; the Baseball Card Adventure series, which has sold more than 1.5 million copies around the world; and the My Weird School series, which has sold more than 34 million copies. Thanks to his many fans who voted in their classrooms, Dan has received nineteen state book awards and ninety-two state book award nominations. He lives in New York City with his wife. You can visit him online at dangutman.com.

Read more from Dan Gutman

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Reviews for The Homework Machine

169 ratings 18 reviews

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  • Ivri Maman Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 4/5 his book was a cliffhanger I read it for school and I think anyone between 1-6th grade could read it. Honestly I only liked the baseball card adventures more but this was nice Read more

1 person found this helpful

  • stephxsu Rating: 3 out of 5 stars 3/5 I thought this was book was just okay, in that it dragged on for me by the middle and all the way through to the end. But we had some pretty good discussions on this book for my EL410 class. Of course the kids were all wondering about how, exactly, Brenton created such a machine, but there was also lots of discussion about the 4 students' similarities, differences, and growth over the course of the book, and there was even some discussion about chess vs. war! So this was one of those cases where I didn't really enjoy it because I wasn't the target audience, but the target audience did like it, and even clamored to read the sequel. Read more
  • kimjd_2 Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 4/5 Four classmates who don't have much in common start spending a lot of time together when one of them creates a computer program that can do their homework. Sounds like a great invention, but the four find out that "no homework" isn't all it's cracked up to be. Read more
  • dhruptidhakan Rating: 5 out of 5 stars 5/5 free books !! finally I always wanted a app like this. Read more
  • jians_20 Rating: 5 out of 5 stars 5/5  The D squad, Judy a brainy, Brenton, a geek, Sam Snikwad and a Kelsey who dyes her hair pink and pierces her belly button. They have a special connection which makes their grades go up, Up, UP! And it's the Homework Machine... Read more
  • adamjohn_1 Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 4/5 The D Squad has a really big secret. They have Read more
  • pravs_3 Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 4/5 The Homework Machine is a story about 4 very different 5th grade students who create and use a homework machine to complete their assignments. The book is a chapter book aimed at children in grades 4-6. There are a few complaints and concerns about racy language that Gutman uses, including use of words like “crap” and “sucks” but upon reading the book I found these concerns to be a bit overblown. The book is well written as it takes the viewpoint of several narrators simultaneously. The timing of the book is after the whole ordeal is over and the students recall their journey over the past year. I would recommend keeping this book on the shelves for 4th graders and above. Read more
  • ywoo_7 Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 4/5 Sam, Brenton, Judy and Kelesy have a secret about Belch the homework machine.  Read more
  • jeunlee_1 Rating: 5 out of 5 stars 5/5 Brenten, Sam, Kelsey and Judy were about to get into trouble because of the homework machine, but they wasn't in the big trouble as they thought. It was very mysterious because it was mixed of mystery and realistic and also it was not one person telling the one story but many people took turn to talk about what happened. Read more
  • porch_reader Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 4/5 I read this aloud to my older son (who will be in 4th grade in the fall). We both LOVED it. The story is told from the perspective of four 5th grade students (as well as an occasional aside from their teacher, moms, and other adults). I've seen books in which each chapter is told from a different perspective, but in this book, Gutman jumps between perspectives throughout each chapter. Sometimes a character only contributes a sentence or two before another jumps in. The format had the potential to be somewhat distracting, but Gutman pulled it off beautifully. We felt like we got to know each of the kids very well. Each was distinct, and the story of the homework machine could not have been told as effectively without each of their unique perspectives. Read more
  • ebkji Rating: 5 out of 5 stars 5/5 It is a creative book. Read more
  • pigofhappiness Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 4/5 A delightful story about four students who bond over shared experiences and of course, the use of a homework machine. An interesting look into the different types of people in the world. Written as if dictated to a police report. Appropriate for fourth grade and up... Read more
  • mutantk8 Rating: 3 out of 5 stars 3/5 Not bad. Initially, I didn't like how quickly the story shifted perspectives, I thought that this made it difficult to identify with any particular character. However, after the first couple chapters the story and the depth of its characters unfolded. The coming together of these unlikely friends created an intriguing and fun dynamic alongside the magical (or maybe not so magical in this tech-age) idea of a homework machine. Overall I think it's a good read, despite it's dalliances into the politics of war, and racial stereotypes. Read more
  • 9ac01bev Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 4/5 This book was very good it was funny at the end whene the man comes to the door and Kelsey starts to scream. I like the book because it was funny and interesting. Read more
  • bibliophile26 Rating: 1 out of 5 stars 1/5 Four unlikely schoolmates bond over a homework machine. I had to read this book for Battle of the Books and didn't care for it at all. For one thing, the story is completely improbable. Secondly, it flips from perspective to perspective (within very few pages) and that makes the story extremely choppy. Also, a serious tragedy happens to one of the kids and I didn't like the way the book dealt with it at all. Read more

Book preview

The homework machine - dan gutman, introduction, police chief rebecca fish, grand canyon, arizona.

Seen a lot of strange stuff go down in ten years working here. Probably has something to do with being so close to the canyon. Having a mile-deep hole in your backyard brings out the weirdness in folks.

I remember the time that gambler from L.A. lost a bet in Las Vegas, and his friends drove him up here. Forced him to parachute into the canyon. Guy almost died. You get all kinds in this part of the country. The canyon attracts ’em like flies to dog doo. But this recent situation involving the children was one of the stranger cases I ever ran into.

We called in everybody who had anything to do with what happened and taped their private testimony for the record. Far as I’m concerned, this case is closed and shut. Let’s hope these four students learned their lesson. This’ll never happen again, that’s for darn sure.


The police lady says me and Brenton and Judy and Kelsey have to each come in separately and talk about what happened.

Okay, so here goes. Is this thing on? My name is Sam Dawkins, but everybody calls me Snikwad on account of that’s my last name spelled backward. Dawkins. Snikwad. Get it? Most kids call me Snik. It’s kinda cool. Beats having a nickname like Booger Face or Fart Boy or something stupid like that.

I was new to the school. I didn’t know anything. And I didn’t get kicked out of my old school because I refused to get a haircut. That’s a lie. I don’t know how that rumor got started. I don’t care if you believe me. That’s the truth. Anyway, my parents moved here from Oregon. My dad was in the air force and that’s why we moved to Arizona. He was assigned to Luke Air Force Base near Phoenix.

The bottom line is, we messed up. Stuff happens. We’re not perfect. We all feel bad. We won’t do it again. What are you gonna do, throw us in jail? That’s my statement.

What, you need more than that? Details? Okay, okay. What do you want to know?


My name is Kelsey Donnelly. I really don’t see the reason why we gotta do this. The police lady told me that I have to make a statement in private and tell the whole story of what happened from the very beginning in September. Like I’m a creep or something! I barely remember what happened last week. Forget about way back in September.

Look, we’re sorry about what happened. We were just having a little fun and it got out of hand. It’s not like we robbed a bank or anything. That’s my statement. I can’t believe I have to spend my summer in this room with a tape recorder when I could be out having fun. Can I go now?


My name is Judy Douglas. My mom works at home and my dad works for the National Park Service. He cuts down dead trees and does controlled burns to prevent forest fires.

The whole thing started because certain people who shall remain nameless did some thoughtless things that I don’t need to discuss here.

This is so unfair. I have almost straight A’s and I’m in the G&T program. That’s gifted and talented. I would never break the law or do anything dishonest. Things just got out of control. The next thing we knew, we had to go talk to the police.

Do you have any idea of how humiliating this entire ordeal has been for me? Do you know how upset my parents were when they found out? And now this is going to be on my permanent record, probably for the rest of my life. If this keeps me out of law school someday, I will be so angry.

I’ll sue. That’s what I’ll do. Well, if I get into law school I’ll sue. But if I get into law school I won’t need to sue. Oh, I just wish I could go to sleep and wake up and find out it was all a dream. Like it never happened.

My first reaction was that it was discrimination. We are one of the few African-American families living in this area. When something bad happens to Judy, I can’t help but wonder if it is bigotry at work. But I looked into it, and that wasn’t the case. She and the others just did a dumb thing and they got caught. It’s as simple as that. And now they’re going to have to pay for it.


It’s interesting how things happen sometimes. If I line up ten dominoes and I push over the first one, the others will fall one by one. But if I leave the first one alone, the other dominoes remain standing.

Life is like that. The way your life plays out depends on which dominoes you choose to push over and which ones you leave alone. In this case, we pushed over the wrong domino. Can I get a drink of water or something?


I was so excited, walking into my very own classroom for the first time in September. I had been a student teacher in Ohio, and I was hoping to get a job somewhere in the west, preferably near a national park. I’ve always been a nature lover, and I wanted to share this with young people. When I got an offer to teach fifth grade at the Grand Canyon School, well, it was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

The Grand Canyon! I had never even been here before. Just think! Over the course of four billion years, the Colorado River slowly sliced this gash into the Earth. I spent hours exploring it when I moved here, and took lots of pictures of the layers of rock. The Grand Canyon is like a sculpture, created by nature. I was in awe.

When I walked into Miss Rasmussen’s class on the first day of school, the first thing that struck me was that she was so young ! I mean, she looked like she could have been one of the students. I liked that, because I figured she would be really enthusiastic about everything. Some of the older teachers who have been teaching all their lives don’t get too excited about anything anymore.

On the other hand, I was afraid Miss Rasmussen might not be experienced enough to handle some of the boys, who can be a problem sometimes.

So I walk into Miss Rasmussen’s class on the first day of school in September and I’m the new kid, so I’m a little nervous and I don’t want everybody looking at me, but they’re all looking at me anyway because, well, I’m the new kid and everybody wants to check out the new kid.

I scope out the scene and it’s obvious who the cool kids are, who the dumb kids are, who the smart kids are, and who the dorks are. I could tell in a minute. The class had the usual number of clueless dweebs, pre–jock idiots, losers, brownnosers, and bullies, just like my old school.

But the one kid who stood out was Brenton. You just knew the first time you set eyes on him that there was something different about this kid.

Brenton would dress funny, with these stiff long pants no matter how hot it was. He always wore a button-down shirt and sometimes he would even wear a tie to school. Can you imagine? I guess his mom made him dress that way. I hope so, anyway. I can’t imagine a boy wearing a tie to school on his own.

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Table of Contents

About the book, about the author.

Dan Gutman

Dan Gutman hated to read when he was a kid. Then he grew up. Now he writes cool books like The Kid Who Ran for President ; Honus & Me ; The Million Dollar Shot ; Race for the Sky ; and The Edison Mystery: Qwerty Stevens, Back in Time . If you want to learn more about Dan or his books, stop by his website at DanGutman.com.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (June 26, 2007)
  • Length: 176 pages
  • ISBN13: 9780689876790
  • Grades: 3 - 7
  • Ages: 8 - 12
  • Fountas & Pinnell™ R These books have been officially leveled by using the F&P Text Level Gradient™ Leveling System

Browse Related Books

  • Age 12 and Up
  • Children's Fiction > Social Themes > Adolescence & Coming of Age
  • Children's Fiction > Social Situations > Adolescence
  • Children's Fiction > School & Education
  • Children's Fiction > Humorous Stories

Awards and Honors

  • ILA/CBC Children's Choices
  • Maud Hart Lovelace Award Nominee (MN)
  • Booklist Editors' Choice
  • South Carolina Picture Book Award Nominee
  • Iowa Children's Choice Award Nominee
  • Young Hoosier Book Award Nominee (IN)
  • Indian Paintbrush Book Award Nominee (WY)
  • Chicago Public Library's Best of the Best
  • Nutmeg Book Award Nominee (CT)
  • Colorado Children's Book Award Master List
  • Child Magazine's Guide to Top Books, Videos and Software of the Year
  • Pacific Northwest Young Reader's Choice Award Master List
  • Volunteer State Book Award Nominee (TN)
  • Virginia Readers' Choice Award List
  • Prairie Pasque Award Nominee (SD)
  • Land of Enchantment RoadRunner Award Nominee (NM)
  • Nene Award Nominee (HI)
  • Sunshine State Young Readers' Award List (FL)
  • Massachusetts Children's Book Award Nominee
  • Golden Sower Award (NE)
  • Sasquatch Book Award Nominee (WA)

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  • Book Cover Image (jpg): The Homework Machine Trade Paperback 9780689876790 (2.4 MB)

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The Homework Machine

The Homework Machine - Book #1 of the Homework Machine

Return of the Homework Machine

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The Homework Machine

50 pages • 1 hour read

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.

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  • Chapters 3-4
  • Chapters 5-6
  • Chapters 7-8
  • Chapters 9-10
  • Character Analysis
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Summary and Study Guide

The Homework Machine , written by acclaimed American author Dan Gutman was first published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers and is the first of a two-book series. The second book, The Return of the Homework Machine , was published in 2011. Gutman is primarily a children’s fiction writer who has been nominated for and won numerous awards, including 18 for The Homework Machine alone. Gutman is best known for his humorous series, My Weird School , in which there are more than 70 books. He lives in New York City with his family.

The paperback edition used for this study guide was published by Simon & Schuster in 2007.

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Plot Summary

The Homework Machine is told from the perspectives of multiple characters in the format of tape recordings for a police report.

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The four main characters are fifth-grade students who are grouped at the same classroom table because their last names start with D: Sam Dawkins (Snik), Kelsey Donnelly , Judy Douglas , and Brenton Damagatchi . Other than sharing the same last initial, the students have nothing in common. Snik is the cool class smart aleck; Kelsey is laid back and doesn’t care about school; Judy is conscientious and in the gifted program; and Brenton is a loner and genius who designs software and studies psychology in his spare time. Snik pushes people’s buttons, and one day he pushes Brenton too far—implying that Brenton spends all his free time doing homework. Brenton retorts that he doesn’t spend any time doing homework and lets slip that he has invented a homework machine.

Snik calls Brenton a liar, so Brenton invites Snik, Judy, and Kelsey to his house to see for themselves. The group are stunned when Brenton’s machine prints out perfectly completed homework in Brenton’s handwriting. Brenton agrees to let Snik, Judy, and Kelsey join him after school to “do” their homework and even rewrites the software to accommodate their handwriting. The unlikely foursome spends every afternoon together, but they insist that they are not friends and that the only reason they tolerate each other is to use the homework machine, which they name Belch. Judy feels guilty about cheating but enjoys getting A’s and uses the extra time to take up ballet. Kelsey’s vastly improved grades earn her privileges, such as a belly-button piercing, from her mother. As the weeks pass, the D Squad becomes addicted to using Belch and the boundaries between their various social identities begin to blur. Snik shows an interest in “boring” chess, which Brenton plays, and Judy tries to be complimentary about Kelsey’s piercings (while finding them disgusting). Everything seems to be going well. However, things start to rapidly fall apart halfway through the year. Judy and Kelsey’s other friends resent their new associations and “unfriend” them, and their teacher, Miss Rasmussen , suspects that they are cheating.

In addition, a strange man has been stalking the group ever since Brenton designed software to instigate a hugely successful social media-driven “red socks day” that spread across America. Miss Rasmussen springs a surprise test on the class to see whether the D Squad really knows their schoolwork. Sure enough—Kelsey and Snik fail, and Judy gets a C, confirming Miss Rasmussen’s suspicions. Before Miss Rasmussen can report them, Snik’s father, who is in the military, is killed in the Middle East. This tragic event diverts Miss Rasmussen’s attention from the cheating, which seems trivial in comparison. The bond between the D Squad strengthens as the stress of keeping Belch secret increases.

Together they decide to shut Belch down, only to discover that Belch has taken on a life of its own and will not power off. They throw Belch into the Grand Canyon and feel relief as they watch it disappear. However, when backpackers find computer pieces at the bottom of the canyon, the D Squad is called into the sheriff’s office where they confess to everything. The case is closed, but their unlikely friendships continue to strengthen and grow. The stalker turns out to be someone scouting Brenton to offer him a job as an influencer for his company. The company’s clients want to market their products to kids. Brenton simply offers him an idea he would like to influence kids with: “Do your homework” (146).

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