Tuesday, 22 July 2014


We asked you for your favourite things about summer… this is what you said!

Daisy says:
Summer means not having any cares or worries and having fun with friends!

Lauren says:
MORE ICE CREAM!!! Also Christmas (don't panic, I live in South Africa!), pool parties, orchestra tours and a trip to Marine World if possible. And an excuse to wear sunglasses all the time!

Chloe says:
Running through fields, fun with friends, the seaside, ice creams, fairs and bonfires!

Vicky says:
Summer means meeting new friends! I met a bunch of Americans last year, and this year I hope to meet my pen-pal! Also eating ice cream and picnics in the park…

Latifa says:
Summer means endless fun and awesome fashion, Lucozade and 7Up and making the most of life!

Chloe Dawn says:
This year it will mean the end of exams (FINALLY!) and worrying about whether I've got into Sixth Form or not. Most years it means camping, barbeques, reading in the sun and not having to worry about school and homework for a while!

Chantel says:
No school! Summer means relaxing, theme parks, being wih my family, having lots of free time, going to the beach… and wishing it would never end!

Pippa says:
Summer is the BEST! I love going to the beach, having time off school to spend with my friends and going on holiday… we are going back to Cyprus for the first time in five years this summer! Summer has the best weather, and wearing hats and sunglasses and flipflops is cool!

Princess says:
Family vacations, chilling with friends, no schoolwork worries, playing out till the streetlights come on, beach trips, family BBQs, festivals and carnivals. It's the busiest and the best time of the year - fun, ice cream and a whole load of sunshine!

Cathy says:
Do you agree? COMMENT BELOW to have your say and share what summer means to YOU!

Monday, 21 July 2014


We take a look at what's cool and awesome in the book world for older teens… 

Jo Nadin says:
I write books. A lot of books. Which is another way of saying I spend most of the day dreaming about being other people in other places and then putting that down on paper. I do a lot of dreaming, but my latest book has elements of nightmares in it too: it's a thriller for older readers called EDEN. When her cousin Bea dies in a house fire in London, Evie returns to her childhood home of EDEN, on an estuary in Cornwall, desperate to make up for mistakes in the past. But she's not the only one seeking redemption. Bea's boyfriend Penn washes up on the river too, and Evie finds herself falling for this dark and possibly dangerous stranger. It's a book of twists, turns and surprises; about finding out who you are, who you want to be, and who you can get away with being…

Cathy says:
I've read EDEN, and loved it - beautifully written and totally addictive, it will keep you guessing right until the end...

Hilary Freeman says:
I've written six books for teens/ young adults, and am currently working on the seventh. When I'm not writing books, you'll find me still hunched over my laptop writing articles for newspapers and magazines; and, being an agony aunt, giving advice to young people! My other jobs have included being a leg model and a very bad cleaner. My books are about the kind of issues that teenagers face every day. Friendship and romance feature strongly, but self-harm, internet identity, shoplifting, problem parents and celebrity have all featured. THE BOY FROM FRANCE is the third in my Camden Town series, about a group of friends who all live on the same street in Camden Town. THE BOY FROM FRANCE is Vix's story, and it's vaguely my story too, as my boyfriend is from France and has recently moved over to live with me in Camden Town! When Vix's classmates find that their visiting French exchange students will include boys, everyone is very excited; everyone that is, except Vix, who has a sick mother to cope with and has no time for boys. But her student does turn out to be a boy, and what's more, he's gorgeous and charming. But is he for real? How long can it last? And will Vix's secrets and lies destroy the relationship?

Cathy says:
I'd have loved this story as a teen… I never went on a school exchange, but always dreamed of it! THE BOY FROM FRANCE sounds like a perfect summer read!

Do YOU have any must-read suggestions for older teens? COMMENT BELOW to share your views!

Sunday, 20 July 2014


We don't understand mental illness very well, and of course, what we don't understand can frighten us. But what is it like to struggle with mental illness? Brave reader Karina explains...

Karina says:
Ever since I was very young, I've had problems; I hear voices. For a long time I thought it was normal and that everyone had those voices, but of course that's not so. If I ever mentioned this in conversation, the voices became negative and threatening, say the most horrible things. I began to realise something might be wrong. Around that time I witnessed a car crash and that was when the visions started - they're too graphic to even describe, but still I didn't speak out… I couldn't.

I was fifteen when I finally told someone. By then I was depressed and cried most days, and every time I tried to tell someone the voices would stop me, saying that my family would disown me.
Eventually I found the courage to ignore the voices and I told my mum, and since that day I have been getting proper medical help. I have medication which helps, and I am re-training my mind to be less negative.

My advice to anyone with mental health issues is not to be afraid, and to talk about how you are feeling. Speaking out is a step forward - you can say, 'I am beating this.' I told my mum and my best friend first, but it doesn't matter who you tell as long as you get some help. You can call ChildLine on 0800 1111 or look at the websites for MIND or Time To Change. They have helped me loads. I waited so long to hear someone say 'You are not alone,' and now I finally believe it. There are many people with the same problems as me... and there is a way forward for us all.

Karina's name has been changed to protect her identity: pics are posed by model.

Cathy says:
Karina has learned that speaking out is the only way to get help for problems like this - and that help really IS out there. I'm so impressed at her bravery and her determination to reach out and help others. COMMENT BELOW if someone you know has struggled with a mental health issue - or if you'd like to send a message of support to Karina.

Friday, 18 July 2014


Online friendships can be tricky. As Honey Tanberry found out in the book SWEET HONEY, people online aren't always what they seem. Sometimes, though, an online friendship can be the real deal… we talked to fifteen year old Emi who found her best friend that way!

Emi says:
I started being an online admin for Harry Potter fan pages in 2013, and I was then added to a small 'group' on Facebook for people who love books, films and fandoms and admin for them. Soon my interests grew from Harry Potter and Dr Who to Divergent, Hunger Games and Sherlock… I felt I could really be myself and I loved that. The FB group was quite small and I soon got to know some of the people well, including Camryn who lives in Scotland. Gradually, we began to Skype and became best friends. I had done a school production of Phantom of the Opera recently and that was one thing we talked about… then Sherlock… then everything!

Eventually, when friends from the group wanted to talk to us they'd say 'EmiAndCamryn' all in one go… we're like twins in some sense, we just fit. I'm not sure how we decided to meet, but we knew we'd like to talk in real life as well as online. I'd heard so many dodgy stories about meeting people online but I felt like I knew Camryn well. The FB group began talking about having a meet up and I thought that would be great - my friends in the group are just people with the same interests as me… they just happen to live far away. The group meeting hasn't happened yet, but Camryn mentioned that she was coming to London in the spring and we knew we wanted to meet. After a couple of changes of date, the trip was set for April; I talked to my family and they spoke to Camryn's family so we all felt we could trust each other (not that I ever doubted it!).
When we met, we had our guardians with us so if anything had seemed odd it could be dealt with or sorted . Nothing was wrong, though! We met at London Waterloo and went to the Sherlock Holmes museum in Baker St, hosted a radio show together on my dad's radio station, went on the London Eye, went to Forbidden Planet (a massive fandom shop) and even visited Platform nine and three-quarters! We also went to Camden, had a movie night and went to a craft show at Alexandra Palace. The days we spent in London were something I'll never forget, and since then I've seen her again and we've planned a trip for me to stay with her in Scotland. If someone had said to me last year 'Oi, you're about to find the best friends you've 'never' met and have one of them come to stay with you,' I'd have been totally stunned. I think it's wise that we are all careful about online friendships, but I want to spread the message that not everyone you meet online is bad. Camryn is the best friend I could ever dream of, and I'm so thankful to have her!

Cathy says:
This is such a great story of a modern-day friendship that stretches across the miles! COMMENT BELOW to tell us your views on online friendship and/or on Emi's story… or email me via the 'email Cathy' link on www.cathycassidy.com to share your own friendship stories!


Does your school have a prom? We talked to readers who went along to THEIR school prom and found out just what it's like…

Grace says:
I went to mine last Thursday… it was awesome! I didn't have a prom date, but that didn't matter at all - and I danced with one of my best friends and it was such an amazing evening in all kinds of ways!

Alex says:
I went to my prom as it was a chance to have a good time and say goodbye to people I'd spent the last five years of my life around. The clothes were important… everyone wants to look smart and make a good impression! I arrived in my dad's car with a friend from school and spent most of my time talking to pre-students and teachers about the past and plans for the future… and just generally having a good time! It meant quite a lot to me as it was a chance to let go of any inhibitions I might have had at school and just be who I wanted to be. I knew the people there would remember me as I was at the end of school, and not at the start! The school prom isn't just an ending, it's a new beginning too, and that's exciting for everyone!

Stephanie says:
My prom was just a few days ago and I loved it; I was with all of my friends and it was amazing to see everybody all dressed up and looking so glamorous! The pic is of me with my friends Demi and Emma in our prom dresses. The three of us went together - my mum took us, as it was too expensive to get anything fancy transport wise, but that really didn't matter at all! The main highlight of the evening was seeing the teachers on the dance floor - I had never laughed so much in my life! A few people in my friendship group didn't get along as well as I'd have liked in school, but on the night of the prom they all kept it friendly and everyone had a great time… just brilliant, and definitely a night to remember!

Carla says:
It's not called a prom in Australia, but our version - a Year Twelve Formal - is basically the same thing. My whole year was planning to have pictures taken at the beach, but it was raining on the day of the formal, so that was a bit of a shame… haha! Here's a pic of my boyfriend and me at the formal; he wasn't ready for the photo and his face is just priceless! A great night!

Toby says:
The prom was important to me because my friend in the year above me is leaving for uni after the summer. As I live in a different town, it was one of my last chances to hang out with him… kind of like a farewell party for him and the other former S6s. I also got to see another friend who'd moved to Glasgow last year but still came to the prom, and it was great to see her again. I really enjoyed the prom; lots of people take it really seriously and spend over £100 on shoes alone, but I just got myself a suit, went out and had a laugh with my mates. I even took a friend along as my 'date' for the evening which was pretty hilarious. It was a great night - one I'll remember for all the right reasons. Though I can't say the same for some of the teachers who spent more time at the bar than some of the students!

Hannah says:
I loved my prom because I got to spend time with my friends… I won't see many of them after September as most of us will be going to different colleges. At prom we had loads of photos taken by a professional photographer, and there was also a fun photo booth. Lots of great memories right there! During the evening we had to vote for our choice of prom king and queen, and also the best dancer, the best dressed and all kinds of other things… this helped everybody to feel included and involved, and it was a lot of fun as well. We also had a nice meal together and we talked about the past and of course about the future too. Overall it was a really special night out and one I will always remember… if your school has a prom, give it a go… you won't regret it!

Cathy says:
There were no UK proms when I was at school, so this feature has been a great insight into what prom is all about! Did YOU have a school prom… or  would you like to go to one? COMMENT BELOW to tell all!

Thursday, 17 July 2014


Another in our series of readers who live all around the world… this time, meet Caoimhe, who lives in Ireland!

Caoimhe says:
I live in Co Cork in the south west of Ireland, in the countryside. I live on a farm with my mum, dad, brother, two sisters and what seems like a gazillion cows! A lot of Irish people live in the countryside though there are big towns and cities too! We get a lot of rain in Ireland but last summer was a heatwave and so far this summer has been good! I help out on the farm, but I prefer fashion, music and art - I'd love to be a fashion designer some day!

We are big into sports here in Ireland - especially Gaelic Football, Hurling and Rugby. Many schools do a sports competition called Sciath Na Scoil for 5th, 6th and sometimes 4th year… that's the equivalent of the firts two years of secondary and the last of primary. The gilrs team from my school won the Sciath Na Scoil finals this year! The biggest festival in Ireland is definitely St Patrick's Day, which is now celebrated all over the world. We have a 'wear green' day at school, and decorate with St Patrick's Day decorations. Then, on the day, everyone goes to the local parade dressed in green, white and orange. The biggest parade is in Dublin, which is filmed live on national TV!

Ireland has some amazing landscapes and great wildlife, including swans, dolphins and whales. There is a famous wild bottle-nose dolphin, Funghi, who lives near Dingle, Kerry, and is a big tourist attraction - people come back to see him over and over! Ireland is mostly Roman Catholic, but we also have Church of Ireland, Orthodox and Islam. My dad is very religious and goes to church every Sunday. I go to mass on a Sunday night because it's shorter! Irish food is very traditional though we do have take-aways and pizza of course! Bacon, cabbage and spuds are popular, as are barm brack, cottage pie and black pudding. When my mum was younger she used to make it with her granny - it's made of pig's blood!
Boxty, potato pancake, is another staple. The most famous Irish food is the potato… during the Irish Famine of the 1840s the potatoes rotted and millions of people starved or emigrated. Some Irish history is very sad, but it's rich too… from legends of the Fionna to Viking raids, we've had it all!

The irish language is very old and people fly from all over the world to Ireland just to learn it. We have to learn it in school which isn't much fun as everything is said backwards (an example - hot = te, chocolate = seaclaid, hot chocolate = seaclaid te. Does that make sense to anyone?) Tá súil agam gur féidir leat teacht ar fad someday a fheiceáil ar an Oileán Emerald. Slán!

Cathy says:
Ireland is one of my very favourite places to visit, so I loved Caiomhe's feature - and now I can say 'hot chocolate' in Irish, too! COMMENT BELOW to share your views on Ireland or to let me know if you'd like to write about YOUR country for DREAMCATCHER!

Wednesday, 16 July 2014


Another in our series of readers problems… as solved by one of the Chocolate Box Girls, with a little help from YOU! This time, it's SKYE'S turn to offer some advice…

Ari says:
I used to be able to sleep with no problem, but recently I've been having bad dreams and that makes me scared of going to sleep. I've been keeping the lights on but even so, most nights I'm so wound up I just can't get to sleep at all. I lie awake for hours and usually end up playing on my iPad or reading an e-book to take my mind of the nightmares. I seem to fall asleep about two or three and then I sleep in and end up exhausted at school… how can I break the pattern?

Skye says:
Dreams can be very unsettling, I know. A while ago, I had a series of very weird dreams which made me wary of falling asleep… not because they were bad dreams, but because they seemed more real than my actual life. The thing I learned from that is that dreams are just a reflection of your worries and thoughts, and nothing more. If you're having nightmares, it's probably that your subconscious is trying to make sense of something that's going on in your real life. Is there someone you can talk things through with so you can keep things in perspective?
Sleep-wise, try having a lazy bath before bed and relax with a book (not an e-book) or some relaxing music before trying to sleep. Make sure the room is dark, and banish iPads, laptops and mobile phones from the bedroom… they won't help you sleep, just the opposite. I honestly think that sorting out your daylight worries will put a stop to the nightmares, but if they continue, try taking control of them - change the script and take charge (in the dream!) to create a different outcome. Your mind is creating the dreams, so YOU are in charge - you can change everything if you choose to. Once the pattern is broken, your stress and fears about sleeping should fade away and everything should be better! Hope so!

Cathy says:
Do you agree with Skye? Have YOU got any extra advice for Ari? COMMENT BELOW to offer your own suggestions or share your own experiences of coping with sleepless nights!