The Homework Machine by Dan Gutman

The Homework Machine by Dan Gutman is a clever chapter book written from the perspective of four different preteens who have been caught cheating on their homework with a “homework machine.” The book is also fun as the students overcome their own prejudices and judgments of one another in order to unite in using the machine to better enjoy their afternoons. They come to recognize the ways that they are similar to one another, and they stand up for one another against the mockery of the rest of the class. I liked the book as a look at the friendship among young kids.

One of my favorite aspects of the novel was the different voices for each of the youngsters. It is clear from their voices that each has a very different personality, and their writing styles reflect that. This would be a fun novel for a teacher to use to demonstrate the importance of voice in a fictional text.

Beyond that, The Homework Machine is a fun story about kids cheating the “system.” What kid does not wish to do away with busy work homework?

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan is a powerful story about a rich and spoiled Mexican girl whose sudden impoverishment in the 1930s takes her in to the migrant worker camps of California. It teaches much about the Great Depression as well as discrimination during that period. Continue Reading

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli, the Newbery Award Winner for 1991, is celebrating its 25th anniversary since publication. It’s hard for me to imagine this book being an “old” one, but since I knew I read it as a child, I should not be so surprised.

Maniac Magee is the story of a legend, a homeless boy called “Maniac” who stumbles in to a racially divided town and manages to break barriers and build new bonds of friendship among the town residents. This legendary story takes place in a timeless yet obviously historical era, a decade maybe in the 1960s or 1970s. It seems contradictory to say it’s timeless and yet in the past; yet, that is how it feels as I read it. Continue Reading