Read The Homework Machine Online

Authors: Dan Gutman

The Homework Machine

BOOK: The Homework Machine


An imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020

This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2006 by Dan Gutman

All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

& S
is a trademark of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Illustrations by Nina Wallace

Book design by Christopher Grassi

The text for this book is set in Horley Old Style.

Manufactured in the United States of America

6 8 10 9 7 5

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Gutman, Dan.

The homework machine / by Dan Gutman.—1st ed.

p. cm.

Summary: Four fifth-grade students—a geek, a class clown, a teacher's pet, and a slacker—as well as their teacher and mothers, each relate events surrounding a computer programmed to complete homework assignments.

ISBN-13: 978-0-689-87678-3

ISBN-10: 0-689-87678-5

eISBN-13: 978-1-442-40709-1

[1. Homework—Fiction. 2. Cheating—Fiction. 3. Schools—Fiction. 4. Interpersonal relations—Fiction. 5. Arizona—Fiction.] I. Title.

PZ7.G9846Hnw 2006



To kids who hate homework … but do it anyway




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.

Chapter 1


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
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
! 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. He was actually pretty good-looking, but he combed his hair in a really
weird way. Like he parted it on the wrong side or something.

Once I suggested to him that he would look better if he combed his hair the other way. He just looked at me like I was crazy. Like it hadn't even occurred to him that you could change your personal appearance to look better. Or that it would matter. He probably had so many more important things on his mind that he couldn't be bothered with something as trivial as combing his hair.

Some of the other kids would make fun of him behind his back. Sometimes in
of his back. He didn't have any friends. Nobody seemed to know what to make of him.


Brenton just came out and said the weirdest stuff. Like one time he comes up to me and asks me if I know what they made glass out of. I say no and he says they make glass out of sand. I say that's interesting, even though I really don't think it's all that interesting. Then he gets that look in his eyes and he says they take
and make it into
. He says he figures that if they can turn sand into glass, just
about anything is possible. I'm telling you, the guy is different.


Brenton was a genius when it came to school and stuff, but he was real stupid when it came to other stuff. I remember one time this reality TV show was hot and everybody was talking about it. I mean
. And we were all at recess talking about it and Brenton comes out and says something like, “I never heard of that show.” We all just looked at him. It was like not knowing the sun was in the sky. And they say I'm dumb!

That's just the way Brenton is. He doesn't know or care about the stuff that normal people care about. We all thought he was a dork. Well, probably Judy didn't, 'cause she's a genius too.


Most kids at least
to act cool in some way. You know, like they'll get T-shirts with cool logos on them or they'll get a cool bike or listen to cool music. They may not be cool themselves, but they make themselves cool by having cool stuff or hanging around with cool people. But Brenton, he didn't even make the effort.

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