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4-6th Grade Virtual Book Discussion: The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl w/ DIY Lightning

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty is a 4-6 grade juvenile fiction book.

Lucy Callahan was struck by lightning when she was seven, but even though she doesn’t remember getting zapped, her whole life has changed because of it. Lucy is now a super math genius. She can remember any number she sees, and the numbers of PI are constantly running through her head.

Math genius though she may be, Lucy does have some other quirks too. She has several obsessive-compulsive tendencies and is a big germophobe. She’s been home schooled since she was struck and is ready to start taking on college courses. But her grandma has other ideas for her.

Lucy can do whatever she wants once she masters 7th grade. She must make it through one year, make one friend, read one book that isn’t a textbook, and join one activity. Can Lightning Girl solve the equation of middle school? Or will she crash and burn?

Discussion Questions:

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

  2. How did Lucy get her name, “Lightning Girl?”

  3. What is acquired savant syndrome? How would you feel if you suddenly became a genius vs being born a genius? Do you think there is a difference?

  4. Lucy thinks she is ready for college, but Nana insists that Lucy: “go to middle school for 1 year. Make 1 friend. Join 1 activity. And read 1 book.” Why does Nana want her to do this?

  5. Lucy has obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). What is this and how does it affect Lucy in the story?

  6. Lucy thinks she can fit in better if she hides her mathematical genius but hiding her true self only seems to cause problems. Name a few of the problems Lucy has.

  7. Mr. Stoker gives Lucy a math problem that he doesn’t give to the other students. She tells him that’s not fair. Discuss what he means when he says, “It’s certainly fair. It’s not equal.” (p. 209)

  8. What is the Cougars Care Project? Lucy, Levi, and Windy are a team. What does each team member contribute to the project?

  9. Why does Lucy decide to trust Levi with her secret before Windy?

  10. How does Lucy grow by the end of the book?

Create Your Own Lightning Supplies: fluorescent light bulb; rubber balloon; a dark area Instructions:

  1. Turn all of the lights off in the room. (The darker the better!)

  2. Rub the balloon on your hair for several seconds.

  3. Then hold the statically charged balloon near the glass end of the light bulb.

  4. Without touching the bulb, swish the balloon (the end your rubbed your hair with) just over the end of the bulb. This should illuminate the bulb.

  5. Repeat the demonstration as many times as desired.


  • What is happening? What is making the bulb light up?

  • Having trouble? Maybe the room isn’t dark enough. Maybe your hair is too dirty. You can try rubbing the balloon on a wool blanket instead of your hair. Troubleshooting is part of science!

When you rub the balloon on your hair, the balloon builds up an electrical charge (static electricity). Touching the charged balloon to the end of the fluorescent light bulb causes the electrical charge to jump from the balloon to the bulb. This is what illuminates the light bulb.

Lightning is an electrical discharge within a thunderstorm. As the storm develops, the clouds become charged with electricity. Scientists are still not sure exactly what causes this, but they do know that when the voltage becomes high enough for the electricity to leap across the air from one place to another, lightning flashes!

Lightning can spark within a cloud, from one cloud to another, from a cloud to the ground, or from the ground to a cloud.


How'd it go:

We had a hard time getting the experiment to work over zoom. But we were able to talk through it and discuss what should of happened and why. Then we chatted about books, which was the best! Overall, I think fun was had by all.

That's all for now!



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