1. With partners, represent your image Nan’s home using a diorama. When finished, you might take photographs and send these to the author – you’d never know, she might credit them and put them up on her website! (You can email her: email@example.com)
2. Mollie thinks Nan’s photos are very good, like ‘images you’d see in a magazine.’ Your teacher might provide a disposable camera for the class so that each child can take a photo of something in the school corridors or grounds. Remember not to take photos of any pupils and try to choose interesting and amusing angles for your photo. Stick the photographs on the display board and write humorous captions for each.
3. Red Moll used to command her crew ‘to howl like banshees’. The bean sí or bean sidhe is said to wail to warn of impending death in a neighbourhood family, and sometimes she is said to sit combing her long hair, weeping and wailing eerily. Can you suggest other [allegedly!] mythical creatures which are commonly referred to in everyday speech? What meaning are they used to convey? (eg an inscrutable or enigmatic person might be described as sphinx-like, someone who is very faithful or loyal might be called Penelope after the wife who waited ten years for Odysseus to return from his adventures, someone forever looking for good fortune at the end of a rainbow or even someone stereotypically Irish might invoke mention of leprechauns etc) See how many you and your partner/ group can list.
4. Mollie really misses her Granny Ellen, misses her ‘so much it hurts’, but she doesn’t know Nan well enough to talk about this so she hides her tears. It can be very difficult to speak about someone who has died, or to speak to someone who has experienced the death of a close friend or family member. We want to say something, we are afraid of saying the ‘wrong’ thing and may just decide to cross the street, to say nothing at all. But sometimes the bereaved person would get comfort from a quick hello or a friendly greeting. Close your eyes and think about Mollie and how she feels when she thinks of Granny Ellen, or think for a moment about someone or some pet you have lost. Remember that it is perfectly natural and normal to feel sad when we lose someone or something we love.
5. They say we can never understand how someone feels until we put ourselves in their shoes. Put yourself in Mollie’s shoes and try to understand how she feels as she sits on the window seat, in a silence she’s unused to, with only a grandmother she’s unused to for company. Picture her big yellow notebook – can you express how she’s feeling in words and/ or pictures? Don’t share your thoughts unless you feel comfortable doing so.
1. Mollie has been having nightmares that keep waking her in the middle of the night. Have you ever had bad dreams? Can you share a real or imagined nightmare with your partner, describing how you felt on waking up from the dream?
2. Nan dressed the table nicely with tiny daffodils, sparkling glasses and cutlery and gave Mollie a big bowl of beef and Guinness stew with mashed potatoes followed by chocolate pots for dessert. The next morning, they had buttermilk pancakes for breakfast. Would you prefer Flora’s meal-time routines or Nan’s? Can you say why? With a partner, write menus for one day’s meals – first list the meals Nan and Mollie would have eaten together and then those that Flora and Mollie would have eaten in their home in Dublin.
3. Are you surprised that Mollie is nervous at the thought of meeting so many strangers? Can you think of any advice you might give her so she could prepare herself to meet the girls with more confidence and enthusiasm?
4. Granny Ellen and Nan liked film stars like Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly and Maureen O’Hara, and Mollie’s favourite film is Wizard of Oz starring Judy Garland. Find photographs or film-stills of these and other actors of that era, and compare their hair, dress, make-up and size with those of your favourite actors of the 21st century.
5. At one point, Mollie felt her ‘ears burning’ and Alanna ‘borrows Nan’s brain’. These are idioms that use names of body parts. If you used these expressions to people for whom English is an additional language, or even to people who hear things very literally, they’d get the fire extinguisher or call a doctor! Can you think of other idioms would confuse someone unfamiliar with spoken English? eg my heart is in my mouth. It might be fun to illustrate the idioms and see if others can guess to which idiom each illustration refers.
6. Sunny is a very talented artist and draws little cartoons to explain herself when she doesn’t feel able to speak. Her anxiety and extreme shyness has probably helped to bring about her selective mutism. Can you do some research on this disorder and write a few lines of Sunny’s diary, explaining how she felt on first meeting Mollie. Or you could take a leaf out of Sunny’s book and describe the meeting in a cartoon strip!