- We all need to be able to understand the feelings of others and Mollie is very ‘other-aware’: she has a very good understanding of others, especially of Flora. Although she is always happy with the situation in which she finds herself, she is generally capable of empathising with Flora/with the other person. Would you say that Nan shares this trait? Do you think Nan’s funny stories about school help to make Mollie feel better? Can you recount/ invent some funny school stories of your own?
- Flora’s emails are quite funny, though they are mostly about herself and her own life. Can you write her email in a different tone, making sure that in the new and improved version she actually shows more care and consideration for the feelings of her daughter? Or you might write an email from Mollie to Shannon in which she tells that she won’t be going to Paris – try to capture the disappointment and Mollie’s determination to put a brave face on it.
- Nan often uses food to comfort and cheer, and her apple crumble certainly seems to make Mollie feel better. What are the foods that you would choose to eat when you’re feeling low? Design a menu to lift the spirits of even the most downhearted - think chocolate and sticky puddings and … You get the picture!
- Do you usually understand or empathise with what other people may be feeling? eg Do you understand what’s happening for a classmate when someone calls them a name; do you have a sense of how your shy friend/ classmate feels when asked to answer /stand up in front of the class? Discuss with your partner/ group how safe others feel in your school and if you can think of ways you might improve the atmosphere for the school community. Suggestions could be brought to the Students’ Union/ Council, and/or to the BOM.
- The cores and peels from the apples used in Nan’s crumble do not go to waste as Nan feeds these to her tiger worms. Composting is an excellent way to observe the life cycle - life, decay/death, re-use/re-birth. Any organic waste, anything that can decompose is biodegradable. Biodegradable materials include eggshells, paper, small pieces of fruit, vegetable peelings, twigs, straw, leaves. All of these materials can be composted at home and at school. Have you ever tried to make a composter? All you need is an old plastic storage bucket/ bin with plenty of holes drilled in sides and a lid (with more air-holes) that fastens securely so that you can shake the container regularly – this will help the compost to mature more quickly. You will find a recipe for compost and helpful hints on http://www.askaboutireland.ie/learning-zone/primary-students/5th-+-6th-class/5th-+-6th-class-environme/caring-for-the-environmen/how-to-compost/index.xml
- Mollie is the victim of both mental and physical bullying. She doesn’t seem to be handling the problem well because she reacts badly to friendly overtures from both Bonny and Landy and immediately regrets this. Do you/ you and your group think it’s important for young people to be able to recognise what influences how they feel and how they react towards others? Do you have strategies to deal with potential problems that may arise in friendships and other relationships? Take a few moments to think about these – it might be useful to list some strategies and add to these as other strategies occur to you.
1. There are many strong female characters in this book. Alanna runs her own business, Nan lives alone, Flora is a lone parent and TV star/presenter, Mattie Finn is captain of the ferry. Are there any other clues in the book that would lead you to believe that the author is a feminist and believes in equal rights for all?
2. Anything that humiliates you or makes you feel small is bullying. No one has the right to make you feel like this. Bullying includes teasing and name-calling, as well as threatening or harassing behaviour. Ignoring and/ or excluding a child/children from friendship groups is also a form of bullying. Bullies are usually people who want attention, or who are dealing with problems of their own. The way a ‘victim’ responds could show the bully different and more positive ways of coping. Make an anti-bullying poster to display in your school. Include pictures and advice about whom to contact if bullied.
Remember to always tell a teacher, parent or adult if you or a classmate are being bullied. Or you can contact Childline if you need someone to talk to on 0800 1111 (Ireland).
3. Mrs Joseph, the head teacher is ‘… wearing a frown you could plant potatoes in’ (page 83), Granny Ellen used to say that Flora had ‘champagne taste on a lemonade budget.’ Can you think of other interesting and unusual turns of phrase that are sometimes used to let us know more about personality, character and/ or behaviour? See how many you and your partner can think of. Try and use some next time you’re writing!
4. In this chapter, Mollie, Bonny and Lauren experience a range of emotions. Take a few moments to think about these and how the girls might have handled jealousy, uncertainty, feeling left out, anger, pressure to belong and conform to friends’ expectations/demands. Could you rewrite the scene in the head’s office (pp83, 84) and this time have Mollie tell Mrs Joseph the truth. Make sure your chapter ends on an exciting note so that readers will want to continue.
5. Red Moll is a fictional character, but is inspired by Gráinne Ní Mháille or Granuaile, the warrior chieftain who ruled the seas and large areas of land around Co Mayo in the sixteenth century. With a large army and a fleet of ships, this unconventional woman lived by trading and raiding, and her captains demanded payment for safe passage from all who sailed her waters around Clew Bay off the west coast of Ireland. In your group, read more about the ‘Pirate Queen’ and write five of the facts you find most interesting about her life and times. Share these with the class.
6. A very well-known traditional Irish folk song, ‘Óró sé do bheatha abhaile’, celebrates Grace O’Malley and calls on her to help the Irish, though the song may first have been written with Bonnie Prince Charlie in mind! Ask your teacher to play one of the many versions of the song to be found on YouTube. Can you and your class learn and perform the song as the students from Coláiste Lurgan might, in a modern ‘pop’ version? Here are the words of the chorus in case you can’t remember them!
Tá Gráinne Mhaol ag teacht thar sáile,
(Gráinne Mhaol is coming across the sea)
Óglaigh armtha léi mar gharda,
(armed youths with her as her guard)
Gaeil iad féin is ní Gaill ná Spáinnigh
(They are Gaels and not foreigners or Spaniards)
'S cuirfidh siad ruaig ar Ghallaibh
(And they will put put the foreigners to flight).