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4-6th Grade Virtual Book Club: Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation w/ DIY Breathing Simulation

Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation by Stuart Gibbs

Charlie Thorne is a genius, a thief and... she's twelve years old. She's also the only one with the smarts and the skills to save the world. That's why the CIA is desperate for her help in tracking down Albert Einstein's lost equation--an equation so groundbreaking that whoever finds it first, will become the most powerful in the world. Einstein was afraid of what would happen if his equation fell into the wrong hands, so he hid it. But now a rouge group called the Furies are after it and the CIA want it first. Charlie isn't sure anyone should have the equation but that doesn't keep her from getting dragged into danger anyway.

She may have the smarts, but will she also have the skill to stay alive and find Einstein's equation before anyone else?

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is this book about? What are the main themes?

  2. Charlie is basically on her own in the world. She has separated herself from her parents because they want to use her talents to make money. How does this affect Charlie?

  3. In Part 1, “The Fate of the World,” opens with the following Einstein quote: “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” What do you think Einstein means by this? How does this quote make you feel?

  4. Let’s talk about spies! Charlie says, “‘I don’t want to be a spy. It sounds like a lousy job. The pay stinks, you answer to government, and people occasionally try to kill you.’” Why might someone want to be a spy?

Dante says that he doesn’t tell Charlie the whole truth about the mission because he wants to protect her. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement--”Kids need to be sheltered from terrible things happening in the world.”

  1. Throughout this book, Charlie wants to be safe and yet she seems to take big risks. Think about how you react to high stakes situations. Are you more prone to “play it safe” or take a risk?

  2. Explain Charlie’s example of “The Stirrup” and how it relates to Pandora and it’s possible implications for humanity?

  3. What is Charlie and Dante’s relationship like? How does it evolve by the end of the book?

  4. Were you surprised by Milana Moon’s actions toward the end of the novel? Do you consider her a bad guy?

  5. Considering the novel’s epilogue, what do you predict will happen in the next installment of Charlie Thorne?

DIY Breathing Simulation


  • Disposable empty transparent bottle (10–16 fluid ounces) made of hard plastic (such as a sports drink bottle)

  • Ruler

  • Two balloons (8-inch balloons work well)

  • Utility knife (have an adult help and use caution when using the knife)

  • Adult helper

  • Scissors


  1. Take your plastic bottle and slide the balloon into the bottle, holding the end. Fold the neck of the balloon over the top of the bottle. The balloon will look like is dangling in the inside. This is your lung!

  2. With adult permission, cut off the lower half of your bottle so about an inch of empty space below the balloon.

  3. Set the bottle on the table so that the part you just cut is facing up. Now to add the diaphragm to your model.

  4. Take your second balloon and tie a knot in the end. Then cut off 1/3 of the tip. You are left with a wide opening on one side and the knotted end on the other.

  5. Stretch the wide opening of the cut balloon over the wide opening of the bottle. Pull the edges of the balloon up the bottle so the balloon surface is gently stretched. Make sure that the knot is on the outside near the middle of the bottle opening.

  6. "Like an inflated balloon our lungs are full of air. When you breathe in, air flows into your lungs. When you breathe out, air flows out of your lungs. The balloon inside the bottle is like one of your lungs. The bottle is like your ribcage."

  7. "Hold the bottle so you can see the balloon inside (representing the lung). Gently pull down on the knot. Observe and then let the knot come back to its neutral position and then gently push it in. Repeat these steps a few times and observe. "

  8. "If your model is working well, air will rush into the balloon when you pull the knot outward and flow out when you push the knot inward. When we breathe in a relaxed way our diaphragm—the muscle that separates the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity—moves to expand and contract the chest cavity."

The Science:

"When you pulled the knot back, the space inside the bottle increased and your balloon probably filled up with air. In the same way, when the diaphragm in our body pulls back, the chest cavity increases and air flows into our lungs, and we inhale. "

"When you pushed the knot in, the space inside the bottle decreased, and the balloon probably deflated. In the same way, when the diaphragm relaxes the chest cavity decreases, and air is pushed out of the lungs, and we exhale. "

"When you pulled and pushed the knot further the balloon inflated and deflated more. This mirrors what happens when a bigger volume of air is displaced when we breathe more deeply.

The organs in your body involved in breathing are collectively called the respiratory system. The lungs are most important parts of the respiratory system. "


How'd it go:

This clubs meeting went by very fast today. Mostly, due to the fact that this activity was just so darn easy to do. It serves it's informative purpose but was also a really easy one to manage virtually. We even had time to "talk books" at the end and share some recommendations.

That's all for now!



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