Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Book of Questions

I looked at but didn't actually read Dan Gutman's Homework Machine, but I knew my son A. had liked it. So when I saw Return of the Homework Machine on the library shelf I pointed it out to much acclaim. And after A. galloped through it I stuck it on my to-read library pile, where it sat until its final due date of today. Luckily it's a short book, told in tiny sections inside short chapters. There are four kids, their teacher, their nemesis, and a Really Bad Guy, and they all get turns in the tiny sections. I found this annoying at first, but after a few chapters I found the rhythm.

Now I'm left with huge burning questions. What happens with Brenton's cult following? Does anyone care about the archaeological find of the century? What idiot of a sixth grade teacher thinks five students can keep a secret? Will there be jail time for him? Do things really burn up in atmosphere from a height of seven miles? Did the police have anything to say to the Japanese mob? What is the terminal velocity of a computer chip? Shall we all forget what Ronnie's last name means? If this isn't an ongoing series, and it really doesn't feel like one yet, then I'm left with a distinct lack of closure. I enjoyed reading it, but now I'm hungry.

A final note -- recently there was a big stink about a kids book, Liar, which was almost published with an interesting cover featuring a white girl, although the story itself is about a black girl. There was a lot of talk on kidlit blogs about the whitewashing of books, with publishers reluctant to feature non-white teens on covers because it seemed to signal that the book itself was about race (and hence, possibly a boring issue book). The cover for Homework Machine featured a white-bread kind of boy, but this book has a more colorful style. Interesting, and I like it.

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