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A Reading Group Guide to The Great Good Summer
By Liz Garton Scanlon Discussion Questions
1. Examine Ivy’s motto that “every good day starts with an idea.” What does this mean? Why is it so important to her? What was Mama’s reaction to hearing Ivy’s motto? Does her response suggest Mama’s general perspective on life?
2. Why does Ivy’s mom run away with Hallelujah Dave? How does her absence affect Ivy and her father?
3. Compare Mama with Mrs. Murray. How are they different? Similar?
4. Explain what Ivy’s dad meant when he said, “Church folks understand other church folks.” Do church folks share common beliefs and ideas? How so? Since Mama is a member of the church, why are her actions misunderstood by everyone there?
5. Ivy says that her parents didn’t give her a middle name because they wanted to “leave room for God.” What does this mean?
6. Paul is interested in science, and even wants to be an astronaut. Consider how scientific reasoning affects Paul’s faith in God.
7. Explore the symbolism of the bus driver named Magdalena. Note that a woman named Mary Magdalene traveled with Jesus as one of his followers. Discuss other aspects of faith, mystery, and spirituality that serve as ties binding Ivy’s story together.
8. Is Paul and Ivy’s trip to Florida brave or crazy, or both? Ivy refers to it as “a leap of faith.” What do they have faith in, and is it rewarded?
9. Explain how Skinny Ricky is an unlikely candidate to lend assistance to Ivy and Paul. Why does he not seem to be the helping sort? Does he ultimately show another side of himself to Ivy? Do we know why?
10. How does Mama justify her reason for leaving with Hallelujah Dave? Could you forgive her, if you were Ivy?
11. Mama compares God to space, saying. “Davey arrived and reminded me of the other parts of God – the fire and the anger, but the mystery and miracles, too. So, yeah, I guess that is a little bit like space, isn’t it?” How is space like God, according to Mama? Do you agree?
12. In the beginning, Ivy and Paul were classmates but not exactly friends. Why and how does that change? Are they as different from each other as they thought they were?
13. At the end of the book, Ivy re-names herself. What does her name choice say about who she is and what’s she’s learned about herself?
14. Discuss the issues of faith and forgiveness in The Great Good Summer
. How did Ivy change and grow over the course of this book? What about Paul or Mama? Can you define and explain the story’s theme, based on those changes? Extension Activities Musical Hymn
Look up the lyrics and music for the hymn “Blest Be the Tie That Binds.” Listen, follow along with the words, and consider why this hymn was Mama’s favorite. Write a short essay explaining how this hymn relates to Mama’s character. What phrases in the hymn would Mama identify most with? Star Study
In a short essay, compare and contrast the story of Ursa Major and Ursa Minor with Ivy and Mama’s story. Describe the similarities between the two. List the ways that the stories differ. Is Paul right that the myths about constellations are a lot like stories from the Bible? How so? This Reading Group Guide was created in concert with Debbie Gonzales. www.debbiegonzales.com This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.