Over the past few months, the Last Summer at Eden book club has become a thing. Thank you to all the librarians, teachers, homeschool parents, and moms who have found creative ways to share the world of Camp Eden with their young (and not-so-young) readers.
As an author, it’s so exciting to hear about these book clubs. They give readers a chance to interact with the story in a four-dimensional way. Plus book clubs are just a whole lot of fun.
Here are the best discussion questions and creative activities that you can use to host a Last Summer at Eden book club for your class, school, or family!
- Been There, Done That. At the start of the book, Poppi has the unusual feeling she’s been to Camp Eden before. Has this ever happened to you? What causes a feeling like this? What do you think caused it in Poppi’s experience at Camp Eden?
- Judge a Book by Its Cover. Do you feel that the book’s cover captures the story well? What do you notice about the picture? Did this image spark your interest before you read the book? Why or why not?
- The Shorter the Better? The average chapter in Last Summer At Eden is four pages. Camp Eden (the setting of the book) is a fast-paced summer camp. In what ways do the short chapters help set the tone of the book?
- Soundtrack of the Story. In the Author’s Note, it says that the chapter titles are supposed to serve as a soundtrack for the book. Was this the case for you? Why or why not? Did any of the song titles stick out to you? Which of the songs reflect what happens in the story? Which of your favorite camp songs are missing from the book?
- #CampLife! Reading Last Summer at Eden is like spending ten weeks at summer camp. Talk about camp life in the story—which of these parts of camp sound fun or not so fun? (1) S’mores every night (2) Worship three times a day (3) Capture the Flag (4) Hikes (5) Sleeping under the stars (6) A three-day canoe trip (7) Operation Interrogation (8) Talent Show (9) Living in a cabin with five other campers (10) Making camp crafts
- Betrayal. Poppi feels betrayed by Jake and by Bryan. What does each of these characters do that hurts her? What was each character’s motivation for this? Did their betrayals seem true to life? Did they anger you?
- Solve the Problem! Throughout the book, Poppi tries to solve the problem of Camp Eden losing money. Talk about Poppi’s solutions (crowdsourcing money, asking Mr. Bass for a large donation, a big barbecue, and cutting Camp Eden’s costs). What else could she have done to help Eden? Why do you think this idea would have worked?
- What’s in a Name? Consider these names in Last Summer at Eden: Poppi Savot, Jake Bass, Natalie Green, Bryan Simes, Camp Eden, Hilary Steinmal, Stuf Corporation. Do you see any significance in these names? If you could rename any character, what new name would you give this person? Why?
- Mom’s the Word. Poppi is struggling with her mom’s recent death. As part of her grief, she pays close attention to different moms. What kind of a mom was Poppi’s mom? What about Honey Bass? Eva Browne? What does Poppi miss most about her own mom?
- Play It Again. In the story, Jake loves to play music, but his relationship with his father serves as a stumbling block for him to do this. Draw a character arc for Jake about this. How does this character arc about music also mirror what happens to other parts of his character?
- Spreading Germs and Jesus’ Love. Talk about the role community plays in this story. Campers and counselors live together, shoulder-to-shoulder, for ten weeks. What parts of the story are results of this close community? How do characters in a close community like camp affect one another?
- We’ve Got Spirit, Yes, We Do! Poppi notices that each of the cabins becomes like its own family. How do you see this is true? Tell which cabin you would like to join and why. Do you like that particular counselor the best? the campers?
- His Story. Her Story. Our Story. Poppi is the only narrator in the story. She’s new to Camp Eden, and the reader only hears her impression of the camp. How would the book be different if Jake or Natalie (or even Bryan) were telling the story? Would you prefer this version? Why or why not?
- Walk the Walk. Jake challenges Poppi to say what she believes about God. She admits that she doesn’t totally believe everything she teaches the campers. Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever been in a position of teaching others something you don’t totally believe yourself? How does God work through this to spread the word of His love?
Map It! Check out the map of Camp Eden in the front of Last Summer at Eden. Create your own camp. Label the parts of your map, and be creative with what you include! (A waterslide? zipline? swimming pool? treehouse? dirt bike course?)
S’more Chocolate, Please! In the story, the characters experiment with different kinds of s’mores (chocolate chip cookies instead of graham crackers with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups for Hershey’s bars; ham-and-pineapple s’mores; and bacon s’mores). Create your own s’mores recipe and write the ingredients and instructions here.
Operation Create-Your-Own Game! Natalie and Wolfgang create the game Operation Interrogation. Create your own unusual camp game. Include a short description. Give your game only five rules.
They Lived Happily Ever After? Are you satisfied with the book’s ending? Which parts of the story are still unresolved? Write an epilogue to the story. (In your ending, what happens to Bryan? What about Poppi and Jake? Natalie and Wolfgang? the next summer at camp? the Browne family?)
Welcome to Arts and Crafts. The counselors are frustrated with Jake’s idea of a creative craft when he announces they’re making God’s Eyes. Give them a new Arts and Crafts activity. Pretend you’re in charge of Arts and Crafts today for Camp Eden. Create a craft that involves just the materials you can find at Camp Eden. Record a video where you teach the campers and the counselors how to create today’s craft.
Keep the Faith. This is a story about faith. What does each of these characters believe in—Poppi? Jake? Bryan? Natalie? Harriet? Choose a character and create a collage to show this person’s deepest hopes. You can draw pictures, cut up magazines or catalogs, or find pictures online that show what this character wants more than anything else.
Better Than the Book? Watch the Last Summer at Eden book trailer here. Talk about if this is a true introduction to Poppi’s story of saving Camp Eden. If you were the director of the Last Summer at Eden movie, what would you include? What would be difficult to show in a movie version?
Go Fort and Build! Beth’s cabin builds an awesome fort out of sticks and logs. The fort includes a working door, a cabin banner, a leaf floor, and a makeshift stage. Design a model of your own fort using toothpicks and glue.
Read All about It! Write a newspaper article about what happens throughout the story of Last Summer at Eden. How would Lance Hanks report these events in the L.A. Times? Whom would he need to interview? Try to present the facts in 500 words or less.
The Clothes! The Food! The Dancing! The Culture! Poppi is from a farm in Minnesota. Natalie is from glitzy LA. Jake’s family comes from Dallas, Texas. In the story, these hometowns influence the characters. Now create your own character from whichever region you chose (New York City? Colorado? South Florida?). Draw your character in the clothes he or she might wear and show this person doing something true to the culture of his or her home state.
For a free Last Summer at Eden poster for your classroom or library, fill out the form below.