Sunday, 24 May 2015

AMANDA TODD'S STORY: CYBER BULLYING KILLS

Reader Rebecca tells the tragic story of Canadian teenager Amanda Todd, who was driven to suicide by relentless cyber-bullying…

Rebecca says:
The story of Amanda Todd made a big impression on me… it shows just how much damage bullying can do, and how dangerous the internet can be. Amanda was just eleven when she began to discover the world of the internet. Her parents had divorced and Amanda did not have many friends - she was shy, awkward and naive. The internet seemed like an easier way to make friends, and Amanda asked her mum if she could get a web cam, but was refused. Her dad, however, said yes, and so she began to upload videos of herself singing - she had an amazing voice. Her online friends gave her exactly what she wanted… attention.

After a while, one friend online asked Amanda to 'flash' and though she refused he spent a year trying to persuade her. Eventually, she did and the picture was spread around the internet and sent to her classmates, too. The police turned up at her door and Amanda's mum was very shocked. At school, she was teased and bullied because of the picture and she ended up moving house and moving school, but her mistake followed her when a fake Facebook account appeared with her topless picture as the profile image. She was afraid and reported this to the police many times, but they just told her to remove herself from all social media sites. The cyber-bully tried to blackmail her and again her image was sent around the internet.

Another move and another school promised a new start, but she could not escape the past. The bully continued to harass and blackmail her and her new classmates turned against her. She attempted suicide, but survived. Six months on Amanda made a really sad video of her story, asking viewers to stop the bullying… but a month after this, she sadly killed herself. After her death, the video went viral… and Amanda's message that cyber-bullying could do real harm was taken on. The police got involved again and eventually, a thirty-five year old man was arrested and charged.

Never do anything on the internet without your parents' permission, and if you have a new online friend make sure they are real, and who they say they are. It goes without saying, never send anyone pictures or do anything on web cam that you would not want others to see. ALWAYS be cautious on the internet; Amanda's story is sad proof that cyber-bullying can kill.

Cathy says:
Rebecca's hard-hitting report highlights a very tragic story. Cyber-bullying can kill, so be ultra-careful online and don't hesitate to report anyone who threatens, abuses or tries to blackmail you. Have YOU ever got into trouble online? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more...

Saturday, 23 May 2015

MARY: WAITING FOR FORTUNE COOKIE!

Reader Mary can't wait for the last book in the Chocolate Box Girls series…

Mary says:
I wish Cathy Cassidy would write a bit faster! I started secondary school last year and I was so excited to explore the library, which was supposed to have a massive fiction section. I was so disappointed to find they only had two CC books, Scarlett and Marshmallow Skye, both of which I had read many times before. To be fair, I have read almost every CC book already, including all of the Chocolate Box Girls series. I downloaded SWEET HONEY on my Kindle just hours after it came out, and I cannot wait for the last one in the series, FORTUNE COOKIE.  I'm sure it will be just as amazing as the other books… but could it be about a Chocolate Box BOY? ;o)

The plot twist at the end of SWEET HONEY was perfect - plus the identity of the cyber-bully kept me guessing right through the book. I read the whole thing in three hours straight - I'm a pretty fast reader - and when I finished, I started all over again! I had a sneaking feeling all along that Honey was a scared, anxious girl who had built a protective wall around herself… well, Cathy Cassidy knocked that wall down expertly in SWEET HONEY.

I have recommended Cathy's books to lots of people, including my brother, and he loves them too - it's not just girls! I have also read the 'other halves' to the CBG stories, the e-book shorts - Hopes & Dreams, Bittersweet, Moon & Stars, Chocolates & Flowers, Snowflakes & Wishes... they are just as well written as the main books. And now it's just a couple of months until FORTUNE COOKIE is released on June 4th… I CANNOT WAIT!

Cathy says:
I love Mary's enthusiasm - how cool? My readers are the BEST people in the world… they make all the hard work worthwhile. Are YOU looking forward to FORTUNE COOKIE? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Thursday, 21 May 2015

WENDY: I WAS VERY FICKLE...

Another in our regular series about growing up in a different decade… we talk to Wendy, who was a teenager in the 1970s!


Wendy says:
My teens went by in a flash! It seemed like one minute I was practising drawing palomino horses galloping across the open plains… the next I was obsessed with fashion, music and dreams of the future! As a young teen I was still hooked on a TV show called The White Horses which had the most amazing theme tune: 'When the day is done, we'll race to meet the dawn… on white horses, snowy-white horses, let me ride away…' I pictured myself bareback on a beach riding a wild white horse… until the dream was broken by a boy with the most beautiful brown eyes and a denim baker-boy cap, singing about Puppy Love! I switched overnight from fantasising about horses to mooning around on my bedroom floor reading Jackie magazine and finding out everything I could about my pin-up dream boy, Donny Osmond!

I was very fickle, though, because just two months later I had a new crush. I was lying on the grass outside, my little transistor radio pressed up to my ear, listening to my favourite DJ. It was a hot summer's day and the bees were buzzing around the raspberry bushes in my parents' garden. I remember I was wearing a pair of denim cut-offs, a lime-green bell-sleeved t-shirt with Tweetie Pie on it, long purple, pink and white Mary Quant socks and Gola trainers. I even had a little crocheted hat my friend had made me. Then I heard the words… 'It's a god-awful small affair, to the girl with the mousey hair…' all sung in a reedy thin London accent so alien and so unlike the gentle sing-song lilt of the East Coast Scottish voices I was familiar with. The voice took me to a place full of excitement and mystery, so far removed from the little summer garden, from my life. David Bowie… sigh. My mind was transfixed by the wonders of what the future might be… and I knew that this was just the start of it all!

Cathy says:
I love this… like Wendy, I adored the TV show White Horses and fell in love with Donny Osmond and then David Bowie! Wendy is still a fashionista… these days she is a brilliant fashion journalist! Would YOU have enjoyed growing up in the 70s? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

GRACE DARLING: A NATION'S HERO...

In another of our occasional series on famous young women from history, we look at Grace Darling, the lighthouse keeper's daughter whose heroism made her famous in the 19th century…

Grace Darling was born in 1815 in Bamburgh, Northumberland, the seventh of nine children. Her father ran the lighthouse on Brownsman Island, one of the Farne Islands, and at just a few weeks old Grace was taken to live there, in the small cottage attached to the lighthouse. In 1826, the family moved to the newly constructed lighthouse on Longstone Island. They lived mostly in a large room on the ground floor of the lighthouse, warmed by a wood stove, with bedrooms above and the light at the very top.

In the early hours of September 1838, when she was twenty-two years old, Grace looked from her bedroom window near the top of the lighthouse and saw a ship, the paddle steamer Forfarshire, wrecked and sinking on a nearby rocky island. The weather seemed too rough for the lifeboat to make the journey from the mainland, so Grace and her father took a rowing boat slowly out to the wreck, approaching it from the lee side. They rescued four men and one surviving woman who had lost her two young children in the disaster. They rowed back to the lighthouse and Grace stayed to look after the survivors while her father and some of the rescued men rowed back out to save four more shipwreck survivors. Out of 62 passengers aboard the Forfarshire, only another nine had managed to escape, rescued by a passing sloop in the night. The lifeboat from the mainland, when it finally arrived,  found only bodies; the weather was by this point so bad that the lifeboat and its crew were forced to remain at the lighthouse for three days.

When news of Grace's part in the rescue became known, her bravery made her the nation's hero. Donations totalling £700 were raised for her, including £50 from Queen Victoria. Portrait painters came to the island to paint her picture and hundreds of gifts, letters and proposals of marriage flooded in for her. Grace's story had a sad and untimely ending. Just a few years later, she fell ill during a trip to the mainland and died soon after of tuberculosis, aged just twenty-six. Poets such as Wordsworth and Swinburne immortalised her story, novelists fictionalised her life and painters turned her heroic rescue into art. The girl who spotted a shipwreck and helped to save people from the wreckage became the nation's hero, and her story is still told today.

Cathy says:
I learned the story of Grace Darling as a child at school, and her bravery has stayed with me over the years. Did YOU know the story of her heroic rescue? Do you think YOU could be as brave in the same situation? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

LARA: I'M TURNING INTO HONEY!

Another in our regular problem page series… reader Lara asks Honey Tanberry for tips on handling her  moods! Will YOU agree with Honey's advice?

Lara says:
I am scared that being a teenager is turning me into a drama queen… well, a bit like you, Honey. No, I am not off the rails and I do well at school, but at home it's a different story. Whenever I speak to anyone in my family I just get angry and annoyed. I know this is nobody's fault but my own, but if you could give me some tips for how to bite my tongue and not say anything bad, that would be brilliant.

Honey says:
C'mon… who wouldn't want to be like me? Seriously?

Well, OK… maybe not. My short fuse and quick temper has got me into trouble more times than I can say, and I wouldn't wish that on anyone. Like you, I seemed to have less tolerance for my family… at one point, when I was in my early to mid teens, just about everything my mum said drove me nuts, and my sisters really bugged me too. As for Paddy and Cherry… well, let's not go there. I think I was feeling pretty angry after Dad left, but I think hormones and that whole growing-up thing played a part too. Those up-and-down moods really are a natural part of growing up. You might not think it, but I am quite a sensitive person. I feel things very strongly, and sometimes, especially when I was younger, I didn't know what to do with those feelings and they'd just kind of erupt and cause all kinds of trouble.

The thing is, letting off steam may help you and me, but those harsh words hurt other people, people we love. In the end, trying to see things from the other person's viewpoint helped me to keep things in perspective; the things that were upsetting me genuinely weren't intended to. I guess I realised that not everything was about me. I learned to take a deep breath, step back and count to ten… and chill a little. I still get irritated, but these days I'll go for a run or a swim, or paint a picture, or play my music really loud until I feel better. I've also learned to say sorry when I know I'm in the wrong… never easy, but who says life is easy anyhow? Find your own ways to calm down and practice walking away from the situations that wind you up. Growing up is hard enough without making your home life into a battlefield… trust me, that's one lesson I've learned the hard way.

Cathy says:
Honey's answer is very honest - and very helpful, too, I think. What advice would YOU add to help Lara drop the drama queen tendencies? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

ELIZABETH: SCHOOL FOR ONE!

Reader Elizabeth describes what it's like to be home educated… 


Elizabeth says:
I don't go to school; because of some health issues, I left school in Year Eight, and since then I have been home educated. I really like being taught at home because I don't actually have a typical day - every day is different. For example, I don't always learn things at home - we go out and about, to the theatre, museums, once even to see behind the scenes at a restaurant! When we are at home, I don't just learn my usual subjects - we also do lots of cooking and craft. Many home educated students have tutors, but my mum and dad teach me, which I like.

One of the plus points is that I have lots more free time during the day, because with lessons being one on one, we often work through the curriculum faster than if I was at school. This means I get to chill out with my rabbit and my guinea pig between classes! The only thing I miss about school is being able to be with my friends all day, but I have started having friends over to the house so I do get to see them a bit more often. I've joined a dance class and an art club, and that way I get to meet and see new people. I am lucky to have some new friends who are also taught at home - it's fun to meet up with them now and then!

I am in Year Nine now and I still enjoy learning at home. I am going to be joining an online school soon - this is where you log onto your computer and use your webcam to take part in a lesson with other students and a teacher. I'm really looking forward to starting!

Cathy says:
Elizabeth's account is fascinating… would YOU like to be home educated? What would you miss about school? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 18 May 2015

SRISTI: BLOGGING IS FUN!

Reader Sristi, a would-be teen journalist living in Kolkata, tells us what blogging means to her…

Sristi says:
Cathy's fanbase has spread not only all over Europe, but all over the world, and I am living proof of that as I live in Kolkata (Calcutta) in India. Cathy played a vital role in inspiring me to start my blog… I had the idea of posting an interview with her! My other inspiration was renowned and controversial Indian journalist Arnab Goswani, one of the very few men in the media who directly and blatantly exposes scams and dishonesty in politics and in society. Some people hate him for this but I think his show 'The Newshour' is wonderful, he fires the questioning and persistent spirit of journalism in me. Of course, I cannot go around slamming political parties as he does, but my blog is one way I can begin my writing career!

Being a blogger isn't easy. You need to keep on posting regularly and find interesting topics, which is sometimes a challenge! Saying that, blogging is fun as well! Especially for me, as I aspire to be a journalist and I obviously need to begin working on that now! I decided not to stick to one specific genre for my blog, as I want to be versatile, and I don't want blogging to feel too heavy or serious. Blogging for me is having a platform where I can express my views and write about something feel-good!

My first ever post was an interview with Cathy Cassidy, and right now I am writing a series of posts called '2015: The Year of Fests, Practices and Adrenaline,' which is all about what is going now in schools in Kolkata, so it's on everyone's minds and topical. If anyone reading feels that they might like to start a blog, my advice would be to go for it. It's fun, it's interesting and there are no hard and fast rules. As long as what you write does not go against the social interest, this is you chance to speak out and be heard. Start typing, folks!

You can check out Sristi's blog here:
http://yammerhammersblog.blogspot.in/

Cathy says:
I love Sristi's blog and like to catch up with it now and then… it's fascinating to get an insight into life in India. Blogging really can make the world feel like a smaller place! Have you ever blogged? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!