The Songbird Cafe: Mollie Cinnamon is Not a Cupcake – Teachers’ Notes
1/ Book Covers and Titles
They say you should never judge a book by its cover. But what about its title? Do you like this book’s title: Mollie Cinnamon is Not a Cupcake? Can you say why/ why not?
Have a look around the nearest bookshelves. What do you think of the titles?
With a friend, think of amusing and/ or unusual titles for some of the real books or make some up eg How Cheese and Crackers Brought About My Downfall, or The Many Vicissitudes of Apollyon O’Shaughnessy.
You might choose your favourite and design a book jacket that would reflect your title.
2/ Wildlife and Swimming Safety
Click is the name of the dolphin living in Dolphin Bay and Mollie is excited to see him as she has never seen a real-life dolphin before. Many people love to swim with dolphins – but dolphins are wild animals and there are safety implications that must be evaluated and assessed before we jump into the water with a dolphin.
Discuss the risks/ possible dangers and the best way of dealing with a situation where your friend might want to get in and swim (with or without a dolphin) in an unsupervised area. What could you say or do to persuade your friend to make a good decision? What might you do if your friend made a decision that might lead them in to danger?
3/ Superstitions and Making Wishes
In the book, Granny Ellen is very superstitious, always saluting single magpies to ward off bad luck. She avoids walking under ladders and stepping on cracks in the pavement and picks up pins and “lucky pennies” all the time.
She also makes wishes on all kinds of things: shooting stars, rainbows, engagement rings. Many people make a wish as they stir a Christmas pudding, or when they eat the first new potato of the year though it is best not to expect too much from wishes as you might well be disappointed! Some religions frown on making wishes /practising superstitions – can you think why?
Make a list of other occasions that might cause Granny Ellen to make a wish/ and/or make a list of other superstitions commonly practised by people today.
Your wish: Take a day to think about something you really wish for. You might write it in your secret diary, or on a slip of paper that you could roll or fold and hide in a safe place. Or you might type and then print your wish in class, and when everyone has done this, you could create a collage of wishes, or hang them on a branch of a tree and create a wishing tree.
4/ Selective Mutism and Anxiety
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 in chapter 4. Or you could take a leaf out of Sunny’s book and describe the meeting in a cartoon strip.
5/ A New Place to Live
Have you ever been away from your family for a long period? Can you imagine what it would feel like to leave your home even for a month? Draw a large heart on an A4 page. Draw a line down the middle to split the heart in two. On one side, write a list of all the things you’d miss about your home if you had to leave. On the other, write a list of the ten things you’d most like to take with you. As you work, think about the choices that migrant or refugee children have to make when they are forced to leave their homes, perhaps for ever.
6/ Little Bird Island
Little Bird is a small island off the coast of Ireland and Mollie thinks there it’s boring, boring, boring, with nothing to do and nothing to see, except maybe some tractor-spotting. As you read, make a note of all the attractions on the island, and design a brochure to encourage tourists to visit. And/or choose some part of the Wild Atlantic Way and design a brochure that Fáilte Ireland might use to attract more visitors to our western coast.
7/ Your View on School Uniforms
The school uniform Nan finds for Mollie (chapter 6) is scratchy and beetroot-coloured and Mollie isn’t used to wearing a full uniform. What is your opinion of school uniforms? You might do a survey on the opinion of your class/ school and/or have a class debate to tease out the advantages and disadvantages of being dressed exactly like all your fellow pupils. You could address your findings to the Students’ Union/Council and/or the Board of Management of your school.
8/ Red Moll and Granuaile
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.
9/ Old Films
Nan and Mollie watch old films together. What movies would you watch with your grandparents/elderly relative? Draw a large tub/container with popped corn coming out the top. In the ‘tub’, describe your perfect afternoon at the movies, and in the ‘corn’ name the films you’d most love to watch with some older people.
10/ Making Friends
What has Mollie learned about making (and losing) friends in this book? Do you have any qualities that you feel are Friend-Makers or Friend-Breakers? Think carefully about the qualities you feel are non-negotiable/ absolutely necessary in a friend, and also about those things that are ‘friend-breakers’ eg bullying behaviour, disloyalty.
Wanted: a friend for me. You have just placed an ad in a local paper to find yourself a friend. What qualities would you want this friend to have? What type of person would suit you best? Write a brief description, stating types of things you like to do with your friends. Before you start, try to think how classmates see you, why your friends like you – make a list of words you think describe you and what your friends think of you.
Design Your Own Cupcake
If you were sponsoring the Songbird Café, what dish or cake would you like Alanna to dedicate to you? Help her out, design your own cupcake: What does it look like? What do you call it? Can you draw it and maybe post it to the school site /noticeboard? If each person in your class designed their own cupcake you could make a very colourful display for the entrance hall.
Write to Sarah
Sarah loves hearing from her readers. Your class can drop her a line – firstname.lastname@example.org
For more detailed teachers' notes, with activities for every chapter see here.