The Return Of The Homework Machine Summary

Brenton, Kelsey, Judy and Sam were the last people anyone would expect to be friends. Brenton was brilliant, but didn't have many friends. Sam was known as a troublemaker. Judy was considered the teacher's pet, while Kelsey didn't put much effort into anything. The only thing they had in common was the table where they sat in school. Because their last names all started with D, their teacher had them sit together; everyone called them the "D Squad."

So why were the D Squad hanging out together every day after school by October?

Read Judy's section on p. 25-26.

Brenton insists his machine is real. And that afternoon, he takes the rest of D Squad to his house to show them. Brenton scans in their worksheet with questions about the solar system—and a few minutes later, a completed worksheet (in Brenton's handwriting) comes out the printer!

The rest of D Squad are amazed, and pretty soon, the homework machine (which they name Belch) is doing their homework, too! Can you imagine all the things you could do if you didn’t have to spend time on homework? Is there anything bad that could happen if a machine did your homework for you? Find out what happens to D Squad in The Homework Machine by Dan Gutman.

Discussion questions

Spoiler alert! Some of the questions contain key elements of the plot. Do not read if you don't want to know what happens!

  1. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the homework machine. Why would you want (or not want) a homework machine?
  2. Brenton, Kelsey, Judy and Sam are very different characters. Which one was your favorite?
  3. Which character is most like you? Which one is most different?
  4. Did you think Miss Rasmussen would figure out the kids were cheating earlier? Why did it take her so long to figure out something wasn't right?
  5. At the end of the book, Sam says about Brenton: "Brenton just does his own thing. He's one of these guys who is so uncool that he's cool. You know what I mean? You reach a point where you cross the line into coolness." Do you agree? What makes someone cool?
  6. Why does Brenton leak the story about the homework machine? Would you have done the same thing? Why or why not?
  7. On several occasions, the kids in D Squad get the other kids in their school (and around the country) to do something special on a certain day--like wearing red socks, or wearing clothes inside out. If you could make everyone in your school do something for one day, what would it be?
  8. The kids in D Squad have different ideas about the war. Whose opinion do you agree with?
  9. Judy says, "In some situations, you can't tell the difference between right and wrong so easily. Like driving faster than the speed limit is wrong, but if you're rushing to the hospital so that a baby can be born, then speeding is okay." What are some times when you had a hard time deciding if something was right or wrong?
  10. In this story, the homework machine was named Belch. What would you have named the homework machine?

If you liked this book, try

  • Frindle by Andrew Clements
  • Did Fleming Rescue Churchill?: A Research Puzzle by James Cross Giblin
  • Lost and Found by Andrew Clements
  • Sahara Special by Esme Raji Codell
  • A Book of Coupons by Susie Morgenstern

Created in part with funds granted by the Oregon State Library under the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the Oregon State Library.

What would you do if you were a fifth grader facing a huge homework load every night, and you found out that there was a machine that would do all the work for you? (Do we even have to ask?) That's the situation presented to Sam, Kelsey, Judy and Brenton in Dan Gutman's entertaining new book for young readers, The Homework Machine.


The four children, all fifth graders in Miss Rasmussen's class at Grand Canyon School, are as different as any four 11-year-olds could be, but they have one thing in common all are somewhat isolated from their peers. Sam's a newcomer and has had his share of school trouble before; Kelsey quietly carries her grief at losing her father; Judy's righteous sense of indignation constantly irritates others; and Brenton . . . well, he's another story entirely. Brenton is easily the smartest kid in school, so smart that even his parents and teachers have trouble keeping up with him. When Brenton and his three classmates are assigned to the same study group by their first-year teacher, the others discover that Brenton has created a time-saving gadget to do his homework for him. While the boy genius is perfectly capable of doing the homework himself, Sam, Kelsey and Judy could use the help.

Having perfect grades is something new for these three, and as they meet on a daily basis to do homework, they find that they're learning a lot about each other. Such a good thing can't last though, and when a mystery man starts trying to contact them, the kids start to get nervous. Soon there's an even scarier problem why can't the Homework Machine be turned off?

Told in alternating voices (as all the participants make statements to the Grand Canyon Police), the story unfolds in intriguing fashion. Gutman is a talented writer with dozens of children's books to his credit, and his latest is a funny and thought-provoking tale that should appeal equally to boys and girls. Put it in your lesson plan.

James Neal Webb thinks adults dread helping with homework as much as children dread doing it.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *