Friday, 17 April 2015

AN INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION...

We talk to readers who attend international schools... and find out what school is like across the world…

Marianne says:
Recently I moved to Tanzania and I go to an international school here. I am finding it hard to adjust but my parents had jobs in Tanzania so I had to come; my school is a boarding school, but I don't board, although I sometimes wish I did! We have a riding stables at the school, and my favourite horse is called Mr Bean! Overall, my classes are OK but I hate Swahili class… Swahili is the language spoke in Tanzania… 'Jambo' means hello, for example! PE is difficult too, as it is so hot here and it can be very hard to concentrate when you are playing volleyball in the full sun and it's thirty degrees! My dad teaches science at the school, and that is a little bit awkward sometimes! My favourite lesson is English and I wish I was better at French and Swahili as it would be cool to be fluent!

Isabelle says:
I go to school in Belgium. We are here because of my dad's work - we tend not to stay in any one country for more than five years so it's a very different way of life. I love my school because everyone here is different and I have friends from several different countries, and I love learning about their lives and their cultures. I board at school, and I think that this helps to make stronger friendships… you are living with your friends, not just studying with them, so you are bound to get close. I guess it is hard moving on every four or five years, but I am used to it now and I keep in touch with friends from my old school. My favourite subjects are Drama, PE and Readers Workshop, and my least favourite subjects are Maths and Music.

Christine says:
I live in Sri Lanka. My dad is white and English is his first language and my mum is Sri Lankan and speaks Sinhalese. They wanted me to improve my English so they send me as a day-pupil to one of the international schools. I love it - you get to meet a lot of people from all around the world and you open your eyes to other cultures and diversity. You learn new languages, visit new places, eat exotic foods and meet and make the best of friends. The only thing I don't like is constantly having to say goodbye when friends from overseas move on again… that can be hard. My favourite subjects include world language and music, and when I grow up my biggest wish  is to travel around the world!

Cathy says: 
Love these little interviews… how cool? Would YOU like to study in an international school overseas? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

BETTY: THEY CALLED US BOBBYSOXERS...

Another in our fab series of growing up in a different decade… Betty tells all on being a teenager in the 1940s!

Betty says:
We were called 'bobbysoxers' by the American soldiers or GIs. Newport, the nearest town to the village in South Wales where I was an evacuee, was over-run with them, all seeming so relaxed, chewing gum and leaning against shop windows. We evacuees were received with mixed feelings by the Welsh residents of Caerleon - although we made friends with the Welsh children, they couldn't resist making fun of our south-east accents, calling us Cockney even though we were from Dover. Our lessons as an evacuated school were timetabled in scattered venues in the village: Baptist Chapel, Infants school, Training College, Church Hall. In spite of rationing, the uniform had to obey strict rules and even the 6th formers had to wear the hideous hat with its red band, the tunic and blouse, stockings (there were no tights then!) and regulation black shoes. My saturday attire was a skirt, blouse and jersey, or, in summer, a cotton dress. No jeans, no trousers!

Our spare time, when homework was finished, was spent at the Lido or the Youth Club where we danced the Paris Glide or the Quickstep. We went for long walks and played tennis. I was given a bike which lacked a bell or any chromium trimmings, as it was the wartime 'utility' version. I was a girl guide and on our return to Dover I became a Ranger, with a grey jersey and beret as uniform. We tentatively experimented with make-up, lipstick and (daringly!) mascara, which came in a box which you had to moisten with saliva (spit, in other words!) No make-up of any kind was allowed in school.

Our heroes were the stars of Hollywood musicals - we went to 'the pictures' nearly every Saturday. On the wireless (nobody called it the radio back then) we listened to dance bands like Geraldo, Jack Payne and the American Glenn Miller. An exciting development was being linked as pen-pals to four French girls in Orleans, a French town much battered in the war, just as Dover had been. We eventually went over to visit and meet our pen-pals… what a thrill to go to newly liberated France and speak French! Our life back then was certainly severe and restricted by today's standards, but we were perhaps content with our simpler lifestyle!

Cathy says:
Wow… I love this account of growing up in wartime Wales and post-war Dover… brilliant! It sounds amazing to me, and I'd love to time-travel back to see it all. How about YOU? Would you have liked being a teen during wartime? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Thursday, 16 April 2015

CHLOE: FIRST DAY NERVES!

Reader Chloe gives us the low-down on what it's like to start your first ever part-time job…


Chloe says:
The idea of getting a job was exciting but also pretty scary, and when I was first told I had got the job (waitressing in the restaurant of a local golf club) I was happy but very nervous! On my first day, I had a really sick, anxious feeling in my stomach but I took a couple of deep breaths and decided to take the day as it came. I didn't want to mess up and let anyone down. I arrived on time and met some of the staff, who were really nice, but the day did not go without a hitch, alas. About half an hour in, I broke a bowl - thankfully nobody minded. I hoped this would be my first and last mistake but I was wrong again!

As time went on, I began to gain confidence and I found I was always in and out of the kitchen. Maybe if I had taken a second to gather my thoughts or slow down a little, or taken the glass of water I was constantly being offered, the next event may not have occurred but the way I saw it was I had things that had to be done and I was determined to do them. I was asked to make three black coffees and I did this, but what happened next was a bit of a blur. I moved to pick the tray up and it flipped over, spilling coffee on my shirt and jeans and covering the floor in coffee. Ironic, considering I don't even like the stuff! I was told it was fine, but I actually just wanted to burst into tears there and then. Instead, I pulled myself together and remade the coffee. I went out into the crowded dining room and fixed a smile on my face, and I served the coffees. I was still a bit shaky and kept my head down, but I held it together until I got back into the kitchen, and someone asked me again if I was all right and I just couldn't help but start to cry which of course I was SO ashamed of!

Someone took me outside to get some air and asked if I wanted to go home… I thought, YES, I wanted to go home and never come back! I also knew that I couldn't give up so easily. I knew I would regret it if I did. My dad has always said that when you get knocked down, you have to get up again, brush yourself down and carry on… so that's what I did! I finished my shift and by that point I felt much better and proud of myself for not running away. You should never let the fear of striking out stop you from playing the game. If you get upset over messing up it just means you were trying hard and got upset when things didn't go to plan. Everyone messes up sometime! You know the saying, 'don't cry over spilt milk'? Well, it was coffee in this case!

Falling down can be hard and getting up can be harder still, but once you do you will be stronger for it. On my first day I broke a bowl, two cups and a saucer, but I survived! I learned that you don't always get everything perfect at first shot, which was a good lesson to know. You learn more from your mistakes than from anything else, and it makes life a little more interesting, trust me!

Cathy says:
I love Chloe's bravery - it is always hard to start a new job, and waitressing can be very tough, but if you keep going you'll soon get the hang of it. Have YOU ever learned from a mistake or overcome embarrassment to keep on going? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

ELISE: I'M ALWAYS EXCLUDED...

Reader Elise asks Summer Tanberry for advice on friendship and self-esteem matters…

Elise says:
I'm fourteen and I'm shy and quiet and often excluded by my classmates. They say I am weird and make fun of me, although other people say I am skinny and pretty. Even my friends can be odd with me, so I feel left out with them also. I've tried several friendship groups over the last few years but I am always excluded in the end and I feel like my self-esteem and confidence is in tatters. People have said things to me like 'Nobody likes you,' and 'You have no friends.' I often feel like crying and telling someone about this but the truth is nobody cares, so I sometimes ending up making myself sick in the girl's bathroom. I feel like people might like me better if I was skinnier, although I know I am pretty skinny already. I feel so lonely; nobody likes me or cares about me.

Summer says:
Well, first of all, I care… and if I do, others will, too, I promise. You're trapped in a cycle of zero confidence and self-harm, because making yourself sick and denying yourself food to get skinnier all the time is a form of self-harm, believe me. Being thin won't solve your problems, it will only add to them - I am speaking from experience. It is hard to have strong, lasting friendships when your self-esteem is so low… I think this is what others are picking up on. If you don't like yourself, you cannot expect others to. How to change this? Cathy's book LETTERS TO CATHY has lots of tips on building confidence and self-esteem, but one tip that has helped me is to look in the mirror every morning and think some positive thoughts towards yourself, as you might to a friend you really like. Be kind to yourself… believe in yourself. Right now, I think your should talk to your family doctor about the way you're feeling and about the vomiting; these things cannot be ignored. Talk to your parents, to a counsellor, find some help and support. School days are supposed to be the best days of our lives but sometimes they can feel like the worst… luckily, though, they won't last forever.

Cathy says:
Good advice from Summer… would YOU add anything? What would you say to Elise to help her boost her confidence? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

WORLD BOOK DAY DRESSING UP FUN….

Did your school dress up for World Book Day? We talk to readers who took their inspiration from CC characters for their cool costumes…

Ebony says:
I dressed as Scarlett for World Book Day… from the CC book SCARLETT, obviously! Scarlett is one of my favourite books and I thought it would be fun. Scarlett has red hair and O have red dip-dye on the bottom half of my hair, so this made it easier to dress as her! I like Scarlett because she is a bit of a rebel and learns at the end of the book that not everything can be as you want it to be. My mum helped me put the costume together and I bought a new top specially for it. My day was fun, but lots of people were asking who I was, mainly because I had a fake lip piercing instead of Scarlett's tongue piercing… I wasn't going to go that far! Overall, it was great to spend a day dressed as Scarlett!

Edie says:
I dressed up as Coco Tanberry for World Book Day. I chose Coco because when we were told about the non-uniform day I was reading Coco Caramel… it just seemed like a good character to pick! My favourite part of the book is where Lawrie says he will never forget Coco… awww! For my costume, I bought a t-shirt that says 'I love pandas' and a hat. For everything else, I used things I already had. I had a great time!

Carly says:
For World Book Day I chose to dress up as the character Storm, Dizzy's mum from the book Dizzy. I picked Storm because she's a hippie and I think hippies are cool and love the way Storm is described in the book… she's really popular and everyone loves her (except when she is angry!) I chose the clothes I was wearing as I could imagine Storm dancing with the floaty top on and the flowers in the hair just seemed to fit too. It was fun to be a hippie for the day and all my friends loved it! So far the only CC book I've read is Dizzy but I have most of them as my sister has read them!


Cathy says:
Love these costumes… did YOU dress as a CC character for World Book Day? Which character would you dress as if you had the chance? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 13 April 2015

CHOCOLATE FAIRIES: THE INSIDE STORY!

Gracie and Aimear, who were chocolate fairies for me on one of my February tour events, spill the beans on what it's like to help out at a Cathy Cassidy signing…


Gracie & Aimear say:
We were chocolate fairies at Cathy Cassidy's recent event in Milton Keynes and we really enjoyed it! We had not met each other before the event - we had both applied to be chocolate fairies and Cathy thought we might get along, so she gave us both a chance. We had a great day and we have developed a really good friendship and chat often! We love all of Cathy's books and safe to say, she is our favourite author!

At a signing, you can talk to the author about their books and get your copies signed. Chatting about your favourite character to the person who created them can be truly amazing! Asking questions is key and a great way to find out more about your favourite book… it must also give the author lots of ideas! As chocolate fairies, our job was to chat to people in the queue and hand out chocolates. There were bookmarks and samplers too! It was fun and we soon settled into it, and even though we had not met each other before the day we soon began to work as a team. There was no time to be shy! It was good to see the readers meeting Cathy and getting their books signed, and we felt like an important part of the day, helping everything to run smoothly and making sure the readers were happy!

By the end of the signing the two of us were so friendly we decided to exchange phone numbers and now we text all the time and talk about Cathy's books (amongst other things!). Signings are cool, and if you get a chance to be a chocolate fairy, take it! If you want to know where Cathy will be on her June tour, check out the EVENTS link over on her main website, www.cathycassidy.com for more details… new dates are added all the time. Gracie and Aimear signing off… until next time!

Cathy says:
Gracie and Aimear were excellent chocolate fairies and I love that they made a firm friendship that day, too! Have YOU ever been a chocolate fairy or been to a CC book signing? Or ANY book signing? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!


Sunday, 12 April 2015

LOOKING GLASS GIRL: WHAT YOU THINK...

The first reader reviews for LOOKING GLASS GIRL are flooding in… read on to see what the verdict is!


Megan says:
A modern-day retelling of a classic story? Yes please! Looking Glass Girl is such a quirky yet heartfelt story which touches upon the issues of bullying and friendship as well as carrying the theme of Alice in Wonderland throughout the story in such a clever and interesting way. My favourite part of the story was the narrative perspectives; it reminded me of an episode of CSI or Criminal Minds the way that it switched from past to present. The scenes from before Alice's fall were almost like clues to the crime… Although this story is sweet it is actually a lot darker than most CC books, with twists and turns that made me gasp. I definitely recommend picking up a copy - you'll find yourself falling down the rabbit hole with Cathy Cassidy's amazing writing style. You will also fall in love with the gorgeous book cover - I certainly did!
Blue says:
I finished LOOKING GLASS GIRL at 4am… like I could go to sleep without finishing it! When you pick this book up, make sure you have a lot of spare time because you will not be able to put it down once you start reading. From the very start, intrigue grips you; this book contains mystery, shocks, thrills, disbelief and just a dash of romance. Forget the twist ending, this book twists and turns the whole way through! Every time you think you have a character or situation pinned down, there's a twist, however small, and the story veers off in a way you'd never expect. It's so exciting to read. Although it's billed as a 're-imagining' of Lewis Carroll's 'Alice in Wonderland' & 'Alice Through the Looking Glass', this is very much its own story. This book is more surreal than Cathy's previous books. Her writing style switches between first person and third person narrative and also between the past and the present, which gives the book a Wonderland type feel. I love Cathy's descriptions… when she describes a location, you feel like, if you can drag your eyes away from the book, you would find yourself transported there. When she describes a person, you feel as if they are standing right in front of you and you know them well. I'd give LOOKING GLASS GIRL 4.5 jam tarts out of 5… yup, jam tarts are the measurement of choice now. Appropriate, not to mention delicious…

Jess says:
I was drawn in right away… the story really captured me. I know how it feels to drift apart from a best friend, just as Alice does with Lainey and Yaz. Luckily for me, I made new friends, but Alice's situation helped me to see just how serious drifting apart from friends can be; when you end up on the outside looking in and become isolated. I love how LOOKING GLASS GIRL drifts between everyday narrative and Alice's dreams… it creates a sense of unreality, and you start to share Alice's thoughts and feelings too. The element of surprise at the end was a great twist too… I cried at that bit, it is so powerful!

Cathy says:
Awww! The reviews so far are looking good… what will YOU think? Grab a copy of LOOKING GLASS GIRL and find your own Wonderland! COMMENT BELOW to share your own reviews of the new book...