THE HOMEWORK MACHINE

When fifth-graders Judy, Sam and Kelsey discover their classmate Brenton Damagatchi’s homework machine, they think they are on to a good thing and begin to visit him regularly after school. Alphabetically seated at the same table, the brilliant Asian-American computer geek, hardworking, high-achieving African-American girl, troubled army brat and ditzy girl with pink hair would seem to have nothing in common. (They would also seem to be stereotypes, but young readers won’t mind.) But they share an aversion to the time-consuming grind of after-school work. Their use of the machine doesn’t lead to learning—as a surprise spring quiz demonstrates—but it does lead to new friendships and new interests. The events of their year are told chronologically in individual depositions to the police. In spite of the numerous voices, the story is easy to follow, and the change in Sam, especially, is clear, as he discovers talents beyond coolness thanks to a new interest in chess. Middle-grade readers may find one part of this story upsettingly realistic and the clearly stated moral not what they had hoped to hear, but the generally humorous approach will make the lesson go down easily. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-689-87678-5

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2006

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DIARY OF A WIMPY KID

A NOVEL IN CARTOONS

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 1

First volume of a planned three, this edited version of an ongoing online serial records a middle-school everykid’s triumphs and (more often) tribulations through the course of a school year. Largely through his own fault, mishaps seem to plague Greg at every turn, from the minor freak-outs of finding himself permanently seated in class between two pierced stoners and then being saddled with his mom for a substitute teacher, to being forced to wrestle in gym with a weird classmate who has invited him to view his “secret freckle.” Presented in a mix of legible “hand-lettered” text and lots of simple cartoon illustrations with the punch lines often in dialogue balloons, Greg’s escapades, unwavering self-interest and sardonic commentary are a hoot and a half—certain to elicit both gales of giggles and winces of sympathy (not to mention recognition) from young readers. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: April 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-8109-9313-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2007

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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