Sunday, 4 October 2015


Reader Daria has autism, a condition which makes her a little different from most of her classmates. Find out what that means and how she copes…

Daria says:
Autism is a condition which can really divide a person from the rest of the world. Many people on the autistic spectrum feel weird or different, but so what, they are both great things to be! Each autistic person is individual, and I for one love being 'different' and 'interesting'. When the weather changes, so do my moods… I get especially uncomfortable when there is pollen in the air, so I don't go out much then. I do like to go to the beach in summer though!

One thing that is very important to me is to be appreciated when I do something good. Even small things, like folding my clothes or brushing my teeth. These things may not mean much to you, but they do to me, and to be acknowledged when I do these things really matters. I also like everything around me to be in good order… I hate it when I find something is out of line. I am always trying to fix things in the house that aren't quite right or aren't in order. What also annoys me is that people do not see things the way I do. They sometimes think that what I say to others can be rude or abrupt, but I don't see that. I don't mean to be rude and always think that what I have said was acceptable.

I like to stick to a routine because it gives the day a structure. I wake at 6.30, shower at 6.31 which takes ten minutes, then at 6.42 I go and make breakfast. That takes seven minutes and a minute to get back from the kitchen and make sure everything is where it should be. I triple check my backpack, which takes eleven minutes, and then watch my favourite TV show at 7.00… this kind of routine carries on for most of the day and helps me feel more secure!

Autism has never held me back and it never will. One day I want to travel the world and become famous and do other crazy things. I know people will try to drag me down and hold me back, but I am confident I can get past that and be who I want to be.

The awesome illustration for Daria's blog post is by reader Skye… thank you!

Cathy says:
Daria's account of being on the autistic spectrum is fascinating… and enlightening. I am pretty sure that Daria will make her dreams happen, too! Do you know someone who is a little different from the crowd? Or are YOU? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more...

Saturday, 3 October 2015


Would you ever have a tattoo? Readers share their views on skin and ink…

Maya says: 
I don't mind tattoos - I believe people should do whatever they want with their own bodies. I'm fine with other people having tattoos, but I wouldn't do it myself as I probably wouldn't be able to handle the pain!

Alisha says:
I'm not so keen on tattoos. Small, private ones are OK but the big, all-over kind I find a bit scary!

Nicola says:
I LOVE tattoos… honestly, I think they look beautiful. Sadly, I am scared of needles, so I wouldn't get one myself, but I wrote a story about a boy who lost his girlfriend and then became a tattoo artist as he wanted something in his life to be permanent.

Violet says:
Got one, want more. They are a good way of expressing yourself and commemorating special events/people/pets. I love them… I want lots! I have so many designs planned, including two half-sleeves, and all of them mean something. One day, I will be able to prove my age to sceptical tattooists. One day…

Saffy says:
I love them. I have three so far, all on my back, two small ones and one bigger one. I'd like to get more eventually, but they're expensive!

Kym says:
I don't have any and don't plan to, but I have friends who are covered in them and I don't have a problem with that. It annoys me when people start on the whole 'why should I cover them up for my employer' rant, because when you get a job you are representing your employer and not yourself… but that's a whole other can of worms!

Hazel says:
I'm not a fan of tattoos, and it's a pretty safe bet to say I will never get one! I know some people like them and I love some of the beautiful designs, but imagine when you're eighty… it is not going to look good with wrinkly skin! Tattoos are permanent, even the smallest ones, and they hurt going on too. I think you have to really, really like them and know that they will go with your style of dress for years, or at least be easy to cover up. A definite 'no' from me, but if you like them and think you'll like them when you're eighty, then go ahead!

Scarlett says:
I like tattoos - my mum has three - but I am not so keen when people have a whole 'sleeve'. One or two images seems more meaningful, as you can't always see what a whole arm of images is meant to represent. I hope to get a tattoo one day to symbolise my love of music, but I think they hurt and I am not looking forward to that!

Awesome artwork by reader Claire… thank you!

Cathy says:
I don't have any tattoos, but find them fascinating… and I have friends (and a son!) who have been inked. Perhaps they're just a permanent statement of who you are and what matters to you? Would YOU ever take the plunge? COMMENT BELOW to tell us why - or why not!

Friday, 2 October 2015


Reader Sara tells all about what it's like to live in the United Arab Emirate of Dubai…

Sara says:
I have lived in Dubai for four years… I live in a five bedroom villa beside the beach, with my mum and dad and our two dogs Romeo and Frosty. We came out because of my parents job, and I have enjoyed every bit of living here. Before we came, we lived in England and life there was completely different. It's so nice now to wake up to the sound of the waves and the bright rays of sun shining in through the windows. I love spending time at the seaside while the sun sets… it is one of the most beautiful things ever.

I go to a very nice international school, which means I am studying with children from all over the world. It's friendly and not at all strict. My favourite subjects are art and science! The uniform is a skirt with a white shirt and a red scarf, and I quite like it. Every year a kite festival takes place on the beach near us, where professional kite flyers come for shows and to teach others how to fly kites. At weekends I go fishing with my dad and often call my friends to come over for boating or swimming in the sea. During the summer holidays there are always fun activities for kids like bungee jumping, treasure hunts and sand castle building.

Dubai is an Arab state and most of those living here are Arab muslims. The culture holds a strict rule for Arab ladies to wear an abaya at all times in public… it's a long black gown that covers their entire body. Non Arabs and tourists must wear respectable clothing at all times. Dubai is a fascinating mixture of traditional and very modern, though. There are many tourists so we have lots of waterparks, theme parks and beautiful hotels. Dubai holds the record for the biggest mall and the tallest building in the world, and it is always fun to visit these attractions. There are some great resorts which have camel rides and traditional food, too!

Emirati cuisine is a blend of many Middle Eastern and Asian cuisines; my favourite dish is hummous and pita which is a chickpea paste served with soft, warm flatbread. Food in Dubai is not too spicy, which is good, as I am not keen on very spicy food! The desserts are great too. Baklava is one of the best, a sweet pastry made of layers of filo filled with chopped nuts and honey or syrup. The food here really is awesome!

Overall, I think Dubai is great… there are so many activities and parades and things to do; you are never bored. The one thing I hate is the weather… it is super humid, and often as hot as 48 degrees which makes it hard to step outside!

Cathy says:
I haven't spent much time in Dubai but I have visited the neighbouring emirate of Sharjah, and I agree with Sara's comment on the weather! Have YOU ever been to Dubai? Would you like to? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Thursday, 1 October 2015


Dance crazy? Reader Georgia gives you the low-down on what you'll need to strut your stuff on the dance floor!

THE SHOES: Pointe shoes are every ballet dancer's dream, but you cannot go straight to pointe shoes - it takes training, and lots of it. First things first! I've been dancing since I was two years old, and I still remember trying on that first pair of ballet shoes. I didn't know how much a part of my life those shoes would be. These days they are my life. Hours of practice are spent in the, and they fill me with confidence. I've had various styles of ballet shoes over the years, but my favourites are Capezio split soles… they're the comfiest thing ever. I have quite wide feet and finding the perfect shoe was always difficult… then the shop suggested this new style. There's a toe-sole and a heel-sole, so they bend and wrinkle and adjust to your foot. As you get older, instead of elastic to keep your shoes on, ballet students learn to sew on satin ribbons and create that intricate criss-cross patterning up the leg - they can be hard to fasten neatly but it's worth the effort!

THE LEOTARD: You can wear anything comfortable to dance, but a leotard is ideal - it stretches with you, allows freedom of movement and once you put it on you're in a different world, in dance mode! Some ballet schools have a leotard 'uniform' - set colours for certain grades and classes. At my first dance school, we all wore a plan royal blue leotard; at my second, it was the same plain design, but this time in black. I didn't think about it really, but I guess we all looked neat and tidy! At my current dance school, all this changed. Up until Grade Three, everyone wears a raspberry pink leotard; after that, the colour changed to black, but any style at all is allowed! I have a Capezio crossback one, and I love it! Always check with your dance school before buying a leotard, as you will be spending a lot of time in it!

THE BALLET BAG: Possibly the most important item of all! Your dance supply shop will have lots to choose from, so making a decision can be tough… it all depends on your age and level. If you're starting out, a small bag is fine… here are lots of cute pink coloured ones with ballerina motifs for young dancers. My first bag was a little circular suitcase with a clip fastening, and a picture of a ballerina and a pair of ballet shoes on it! I was probably only three or four at the time, and it was big enough for what I needed. As you get older, you need a bigger bag as the kit you need to carry expands! At the moment, I have a black Pineapple bag with two side pockets, and a choice of shoulder strap or hand straps. So, what might go in your bag? Your ballet shoes (obviously!); a jacket; a warm-up top; ballet socks; ballet tights; hair grips (plenty of them!); a donut ring (for a hair bun!); a hairnet/ bun net; a notepad and pen; therabands/ deuserbands; deodorant/ body spray; a drink; some snacks!

These are just a few of the basics for anyone thinking of taking dance classes, but at the end of the day what matters is the lessons themselves… the kit and accessories can come later if you decide you are serious, and your local dance shop will offer good advice if you are unsure what to pick. What are you waiting for?

Cathy says:
My daughter did ballet and jazz dance for several years, so I remember those trips to the dance supply shop… they were cool! Do YOU take dance lessons? What are your favourite bits of kit?  COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday, 30 September 2015


It's problem page time again on DREAMCATCHER… reader Maeve has a problem for Cherry Costello. Will you agree with Cherry's advice?

Maeve says:
I was bullied for a long time in the past, although it did get sorted and it hasn't happened for a long time now. The trouble is, now that term has started again I feel afraid every single day and I don't really know why. I used to self-harm in the past and I am scared that if I feel this anxious all the time, it will start happening again. What do I do?

Cherry says:
The problem with bullying is that it damages your confidence and self-esteem, and the damage can go on long after the bullying has stopped. When I was bullied, I resorted to building a fantasy world around myself and it took a long time for me to realise I didn't need it. For you, anxiety is ruining your new term at school… even though the bullying is over, the after affects are still making life an ordeal for you. In the past, self-harm has been a coping mechanism for you, but you know this is not a solution… it can only make things worse. You need to talk to a school counsellor and also to your family doctor to get some support, because you do NOT want to go back to that place. Once the anxiety and fear is under control, the urge to self-harm should subside. Is there anything else that can help you to handle difficult feelings? Call a friend, play your music loudly, write in a diary, paint a picture, sing, dance, go for a run/ swim/ gym workout… all kinds of things can help. Cathy's book LETTERS TO CATHY has several chapters on building self-esteem, which can help you to feel stronger and more able to handle the stresses of school. Good luck - you CAN do it!

Cathy says:
Great advice from Cherry. What would YOU add, to help Maeve cope? COMMENT BELOW to have your say...

Tuesday, 29 September 2015


Readers talk about the CC characters they identify with most… and why. Awesome stuff!

Blue says:
I like Joey Donovan from the book DRIFTWOOD because she's cool and careless - at twelve years old, most people are worried about what others think of them and are desperately trying to blend into the background, but who wants to look like everybody else? Not Joey! I like that she's smart and loves animals because usually, characters in books who dress out of the ordinary are portrayed as 'baddies' - but Joey is just a sweet kid who works hard and has incredible dress sense! It was easy to style myself as Joey as I already own the kind of clothes and accessories she would wear, and also because I was similar to Joey at that age, if only in style. I didn't quite get to echo Joey's rainbow hair but I did draw on some freckles. It was fun to revisit my youth and remember my schooldays. I'm only two years out of school, but still… dressing up is fun!
Jess says:
DIZZY was the first CC book I read, and it opened up a whole world of adventures! I probably don't have a whole lot in common with the character Dizzy - although over the years I have definitely developed a passion for all things festivally! It also seems I have a similar taste to Dizzy when it comes to boys: cute, musical and with a caring nature! It was fun to set up the photograph - I liked the camper-van ornament and the crazy decorative suitcase, because they gave a festival flavour to it all. And the trees and grass give a countryside feel, too!

Briony says:
I absolutely love the Tanberry-Costello sisters and that's why I made this picture, using an app called Avatar Creator. I then put them all into one image using Pic Collage.The sisters from the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series are all so unique and each have their own great story to tell - and their own style, of course! Coco's tomboy style is my favourite, and she is my favourite sister. She is only twelve but she doesn't let her age stop her from doing anything she wants to… she has bake sales to raise money for charity and works at the stables because of how much animals mean to her. She is inspirational and very much her own person… I love that!

Cathy says:
I love that my characters have inspired you… how cool? Which CC character is YOUR favourite? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 28 September 2015


Reader Sasha describes an amazing holiday in Moscow… with a trip to Wonderland thrown in for good luck!

Sasha says:
This summer had a real Alice in Wonderland theme for me, in more ways than one.

First of all, I went on holiday to Moscow, the capital city of Russia. We go over to Russia every year to see our family - both my mum and dad come from Moscow and my grandparents and cousins still live there. But I was born in Edinburgh, and have always lived here.

Moscow is an awesome place to visit - there are lots of interesting things to see. This year, though, there was an amazing Alice in Wonderland exhibition. There were lots of big rooms - the White Rabbit's house, a room with the White Queen's throne and the Queen of Hearts' throne, a gigantic teacup the size of me and lots more besides! I even got to be a part of the Mad Hatter's tea party which was very cool!

When we came back from Moscow, it was Festival  time in Edinburgh, and the Edinburgh Book Festival was under way… we booked tickets to see Cathy Cassidy talking about her new novel LOOKING GLASS GIRL. The book has a Wonderland theme but with a modern twist! I had already read LOOKING GLASS GIRL and loved it. I liked how Cathy described the Alice-themed sleepover in little flashbacks, so that you only find out what has actually happened near the end of the book. It was lovely to meet Cathy - a great end to a real Wonderland summer!

Cathy says:
Wow… what a holiday… and what fab pictures! Brilliant, Sasha. What has YOUR fave holiday been? COMMENT BELOW to tell me!