Simon & Schuster Children, 2006
Pages : 160
Suggested Ages: 9 and Up
Starting with a stern statement from the Grand Canyon, Arizona Police Chief Rebecca Fish, meet four fifth graders in big trouble. There's long-haired, rebellious, cool guy Sam Dawkins; fun-loving, unacademic, pink-haired Kelsey Donnelly, African American grind Judy Douglas, and friendless genius Brenton Damagatchi. The whole thing starts because Sam is anti-homework, especially the daily fill in-the-blank worksheets his first-year teacher Miss Rasmussen hands out. Sam is skeptical when Brenton claims he has programmed his computer to search the web and do all his homework each day, but it’s true. Soon the four seatmates are spending every afternoon in Brenton’s bedroom, printing out their daily assignments on the computer they nickname Belch. It can’t do any harm, right? The chronology and confession of their ill-fated escapade is related entirely through a series of transcripts, narrated by the four contrite kids, their parents, classmates, and Miss Rasmussen.
There are many interesting threads explored in this nimble story: keeping secrets, making friends, being popular, the morality of taking the easy way out, first crushes, the meaning of war, and even the loss of a parent. The setting of the Grand Canyon and sub-themes about playing chess, starting fads, and using a catapult will get kids looking up supporting information in books and on the Internet. Questions readers can think about as they read include: Which of the four main characters is most like or unlike you and why? Which one would or would not be your friend and why?
Reviewed by : JF.
Themes : DEATH. FRIENDSHIP. GRIEF. HUMOR.
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The unlikely foursome made up of a geek, a class clown, a teacher's pet, and a slacker -- Brenton, Sam "Snick,", Judy and Kelsey, respectively, -- 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, at
The unlikely foursome made up of a geek, a class clown, a teacher's pet, and a slacker -- Brenton, Sam "Snick,", Judy and Kelsey, respectively, -- 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, members of the D Squad, as they are called at school are getting strange Instant Messages from a shady guy named Milner; their teacher, Miss Rasmussen, is calling private meetings with each of them and giving them pop tests that they are failing; and someone has leaked the possibility of a homework machine to the school newspaper. Just when the D Squad thinks things can't get any more out of control, Belch becomes much more powerful than they ever imagined. Soon the kids are in a race against their own creation, and the loser could end up in jail...or worse!